We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


Residential Research Library Inaugural Conference: Libraries, Learning and Religious Identities

10th September 2019, 13:00 to 13th September 2019, 14:00, Durham University

Libraries, Learning and Religious Identities: Britain, Ireland and the European Context, c.1100-c.1900

Hosted by Durham University and Ushaw

Organised by Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Durham University, in collaboration with Ushaw and Durham Cathedral Library, is in the process of establishing a Residential Research Library, which will provide opportunities for visiting scholars to come to Durham to work on the rich collections of these three institutions. The formal launch of the RRL will take place in the autumn of 2019 and to celebrate the event Durham University and Ushaw are hosting a conference on the theme of Libraries, Learning and Religious Identities.

The library collections at Durham are rich and diverse. At the heart of them, however, are a remarkable group of libraries created by, and attached to, religious institutions. Part of the original endowment of the University was the library created by Bishop John Cosin and bequeathed to his successors as an endowed public library for local clergy and people of scholarly interests. Still housed in the building designed by Cosin to house it, the library celebrates the 350th anniversary of its opening in 2019. Among the collections of Durham Cathedral Library is the most complete surviving English monastic library. For the last few years the Cathedral and the University have been collaborating on a project to produce high quality digital images of all the surviving volumes belonging to the Priory Library in order to make this resource as widely available as possible. Ushaw College houses not only a nineteenth- and twentieth-century seminary library, but also copies of many of the books that would have belonged to Douai College, as well as the library of the English College at Lisbon.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the theme of the Inaugural Residential Research Library Conference, 'Libraries, Learning and Religious Identities: Britain, Ireland and the European Context, c.1100-c.1900.' The conference aims to take a broad and inclusive approach to its theme, exploring not only libraries as institutions, but also their social, intellectual and cultural contexts. Geographically, the conference aims to include Britain and Ireland, including the experiences of natives of the British Isles on the continent and institutions, such as the English Catholic colleges, established by exiles. Papers which illuminate the British and Irish context through the discussion of Europe are also welcome.

Some of the questions which we expect to be discussed during the conference are listed below, but this list is intended to be neither prescriptive nor exhaustive, and we would welcome proposals that adopt new perspectives on libraries, learning and religious cultures.

  • What were the purposes of libraries? How did they change through the period?
  • How were libraries constructed?
  • How were libraries used?
  • How important were libraries to the construction of religious knowledge?
  • What role did libraries and their holdings play at key moments of religious change, such as the Reformation?
  • How did libraries and their contents contribute to the construction of religious identities?
  • How important were libraries and learning in sustaining the religious culture of minority groups?
  • In what ways did libraries and their holdings acquire symbolic, cultural significance relative to religious identity?
  • How can the skills, knowledge and methodologies of academics and specialist library staff be brought together to create and pursue new areas of knowledge?

Contact for more information about this event.