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Durham University News

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Durham University’s Oriental Museum to reopen

(13 April 2012)

Qing Dynasty jade bowl

Durham University's Oriental Museum is set to reopen this Monday, April 16, after being temporarily closed following a break-in when two ancient Chinese artefacts were stolen.

The museum, on Elvet Hill, in Durham City, was temporarily closed to the public following the theft earlier this month (April 5).

Damage caused during the burglary has been repaired and the museum - the only museum in the North of Britain devoted entirely to the art and archaeology of the Orient - will reopen its doors to the public at 10am on Monday.

In announcing the reopening of the museum the University has renewed its appeal for the return of the stolen artefacts.

It has also reaffirmed its commitment to making its collections available for public display and scholarly use.

On the night of Thursday, April 5, thieves broke into the Malcolm MacDonald Gallery on the Oriental Museum's ground floor, taking with them a large jade bowl and a porcelain sculpture which have not been recovered.  

Both the artefacts, with a combined value of more than £2million, were from the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty in China.

They included a large green jade bowl, dating from 1769, from the collection of Sir Charles Hardinge, a British collector of jades and hardstones. A Chinese poem is written inside.

The thieves also took a Dehua porcelain sculpture with a cream white glaze of seven fairies in a boat, which is 30cm in both height and length.

The University is working with the police on their enquiries.The University can confirm that security measures are under constant review, but will not comment on specific security arrangements.

As well as housing some of the finest collections in Britain, the Oriental Museum also runs an on-going programme of outreach and cultural activities for the public.

The University also runs a number of other attractions in Durham City including the Wolfson Gallery on Palace Green, which is home to the Treasures of Durham University exhibition, The Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology and The Botanic Garden.

Dr Craig Barclay, the Oriental Museum's Curator, said: "A key part of the University's role is to educate and inform and one of the ways we do this is by making our collections available for public display across our museums and galleries.

"Despite the terrible loss of these two artefacts, the University remains committed to ensuring public access to its collections and it is important that we are able to reopen the museum to the public as soon as we possibly can.

"I would like to thank museum and wider University staff for the professional way they have handled this situation and also thank Durham Police for the hard work they are putting into their investigation.

"We very much hope that police will be able to recover the stolen artefacts and we urge anybody who may have any information about their whereabouts to contact the police immediately."

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to contact Durham Police on 101 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

* Durham Police recovered the artefacts from the Brandon area of Durham on the night of Friday, April 13.

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