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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Durham archaeologists support earthquake recovery in Nepal

A new exhibition exploring the role that Durham University archaeologists have played in disaster recovery following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal opens at the Oriental Museum on Friday 29 September.

The 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal was a humanitarian disaster, devastating large areas of the country and causing substantial loss of life and livelihoods. This natural disaster was also a cultural catastrophe, destroying historic monuments throughout Nepal and substantially damaging the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. As well as being of historic importance, these beautiful monuments are an essential part of Nepal’s fragile tourist economy and are central to the daily lives and rituals of local communities.

Resilience within the Rubble: reconstructing the Kasthamandap and its past after the 2015 Nepal earthquake tells the story of the nationally important and symbolic Kasthamandap monument from its origins to its collapse and renewal after the earthquake. Archive photographs and the personal testimonies and photographs of first responders and Nepali heritage professionals are interwoven with photographs of recent discoveries made during excavations by the Durham-led team.

Professor Robin Coningham, Durham University’s UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage, led the Durham team. He said: “This exhibition highlights the challenges faced during the process of rebuilding in post-disaster situations. Although large sums of money were pledged to help rebuild these monuments, little was being channelled towards understanding why some collapsed while others didn’t, how they were constructed and adapted over time, or whether their foundations showed evidence of damage. These are critical things to consider when reconstructing in an earthquake zone. The Durham team worked with the Government of Nepal’s Department of Archaeology and the University of Stirling to explore the contribution that archaeology can make to understanding why individual monuments fell and how they can be reconstructed with greater resilience for the future.”

Resilience within the Rubble is a collaborative exhibition developed by Durham University’s UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage, the Department of Archaeology (Government of Nepal), the University of Stirling and Durham University’s Oriental Museum. It presents some of the research and practice undertaken by the ‘Can we rebuild the Kasthamandap’ programme funded by the AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund and the National Geographic Society’s Conservation Trust.

Resilience with the Rubble opens to the public on Friday 29 September and runs until Sunday 28 January 2018. For more details, visit the museum website:

The Oriental Museum is open Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm and Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays, 12pm - 5pm. Entry to the museum is £1.50 for adults, 75p for children (five-16) and Over 60s, and free for children under five and students.