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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Student news

Learning the hidden secrets of Durham University

(23 February 2021)

Egyptian statue

Foundation students have met with our Oriental Museum, librarians and artwork curators

Our on-campus classes may be on hold for now, however staff at the Durham Centre for Academic Development have lined up some innovative online opportunities for students to link up with experts and peers across the university.

Participants in our Foundation Programme have had the chance to learn about the hidden histories behind the scenes of Durham through online meetings with our Oriental Museum, librarians and artwork curators.

Secrets of stolen Shakespeare

Our Foundation Programme offers fully integrated elements of Durham University degree programmes for learners from under-represented groups in higher education.

Students who successfully reach the progression standard by the end of their foundation year automatically gain entry to year one of their registered programmes.

With the absence of the usual external field trips the students, undertaking a project to design their own museum, have benefitted significantly from personalised insights into how our staff manage the university artwork, archives, rare books and Oriental Museum.

The online case study of the 17th Century Shakespeare First Folio, a national treasure owned by the University, proved to be a favourite – particularly upon learning of its theft and subsequent return.

Feeling connected to the campus

Dr. Alison McManus said: "We do miss working in a classroom environment, however learning about these hidden histories of Durham through the artefacts we have in our collection, really allows the students to feel more connected to the campus at a time when we are all feeling so disconnected."

"We have tried hard to think creatively and get the students engaged in a different way. This is especially important for non-traditional students who may lack confidence in a higher education environment."

Museums and the future

With one class focussing on ethics in the Arts and Humanities, they were able to explore virtually the Egyptian mummy present at the Oriental Museum, and considered how human remains are presented, along with other pertinent topics in curation including repatriating artifacts and sensitive interaction with human remains in a museum environment.

With the well-received programmes having almost 100% attendance, it looks as though some are here to stay and we look forward to seeing how they continue to evolve in the future.

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