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Durham University News


Major investment will expand global access to cultural treasures

(17 January 2017)

Visitor Attractions at Durham University

Thousands of international scholars, school children and visitors from around the globe will benefit from a major £147k UK Government funding boost to Durham University museums that host some of the world’s finest cultural collections. 

A number of important collaborative research projects in East Asia, will be enabled by an £80k investment in the University’s Oriental Museum, which is home to a world class collection of Chinese ceramics, jade and hardstones.

And Durham University Castle, itself an11th century cultural landmark and visitor attraction which sits at the heart of the City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, will increase public access to treasures such as fine art and arts and armour with a £67k grant that will fund new showcases and display cabinets.

Dr Craig Barclay, Head of Museums at Durham University, said: “The University plays an important role at the centre of culture globally and nationally, as well as in North East England.

“We welcome thousands of people through our doors each year to both study and admire our treasures.

“This investment means that we will be able to broaden public access to our world-class collections and facilitate national and international research collaborations.”

The Oriental Museum - home to a world class collection of Chinese ceramics, jade and hardstones

In a highly competitive process, the University’s Oriental Museum has received £80,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).  The Museum was judged to provide a unique and significant contribution to research and scholarship.

 The Oriental Museum plays a crucial role in supporting the work of researchers, by providing physical and digital access to its treasures. This leads to significant benefits such as the many publications, exhibitions and research collaborations that draw on the collections. The HEFCE funding will be used to facilitate further collaborative research projects in Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and China.

 A current major research development is the imminent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Durham University and the National Museum of Japanese History. This will establish the Oriental Museum as the centre for the delivery of a 5-year programme of research and map Japanese cultural collections in Northern England. There is a further collaboration between the University and the Palace Museum of China. Central to the project is the Oriental Museum’s collection of Chinese ceramics, which is acknowledged as a world ranked resource.

Previous HEFCE funding has played a crucial role in allowing the Museum to open up its collections to researchers and to use their research to more effectively engage with wider audiences such as schools and the public.

Durham Castle - home to fine art, decorative art, stained glass and arms and armour

The collection at Durham University’s Castle includes silver, ceramics and archives of national significance which reflect many of the historical and political events that have helped to shape the cultural landscape of Durham and the region.

The grant of £67,000 from the DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund will enable the collections to be more accessible to researchers, school groups and visitors. New showcases will display the Castle’s treasures more effectively, to enhance the visitor experience.

Collections from Durham Castle and the Oriental Museum are also accessible online via Discover, which allows researchers to access a combined set of results including museum objects, books, articles, e-resources and Durham University research. 

Hidden gems at Durham

Dr Craig Barclay, Head of Museums at Durham University, said: “The University has an important role at the centre of culture in the North-East. Our collections are of international importance and we are fortunate to have so many rare gems which we are delighted to share with the widest possible audience.”

As well as people visiting the collections in Durham, the University exhibits in other parts of the region. One example is the forthcoming ‘Opening the Door’ exhibition where rarely-seen prints by artists including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Henry Moore will go on display at Bishop Auckland Town Hall from 21 January. The exhibition showcases the University’s Western Art collection and explores different printing techniques.

Cultural benefit to the region

Other visitor attractions at Durham include the Palace Green Library - a place for visitors and researchers to explore both the University’s treasures and collections from around the world, and the Botanic Garden, which, as well as providing an academic resource for teaching and research, offers educational visits to schools and is open to the public.

In addition to the museums, collections and exhibitions, the University offers a broad cultural offering including public lectures, musical and theatrical performances.

Over 230,000 people came to experience the University’s visitor attractions in 2014/15, and University visitors generated almost £8million for the local economy.

Dr Keith Bartlett, Director of Culture, Durham University said: “The University is a custodian of many fine treasures and we are committed to developing our collections, hosting exhibitions and events for the benefit of the research community and members of the public. More broadly, we offer an interesting programme of cultural attractions throughout the year which we encourage people to come along and enjoy.”

For more details, visit the What’s On guide

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