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Durham University

Durham University News


New international residential research library to be developed

(3 February 2017)

Durham University to develop new international residential research library at Ushaw College

A new international residential research library, the only one of its kind in the UK, is to be developed at Ushaw College, in a £2 million project led by Durham University.

It is intended that leading researchers from around the world will visit Ushaw to study and work with its outstanding collections, along with those of Durham Cathedral and the University’s Palace Green Library, enhancing the thriving scholarly community that already exists in and around Durham City.

Visiting researchers will be able to reside at the 200-year-old establishment and, as well as using the library resources, contribute to a growing public engagement programme, including public lectures, cultural events and learning opportunities.

Work to begin

Work on the refurbishment of the library, in order to equip it to welcome international visitors, will begin during the academic year 2017-18.

The partnership will make Durham the first UK university to offer such a residential research library and will raise the profile of the collections at Ushaw, the University’s Palace Green Library and Durham Cathedral.

Strengthened partnership

Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) at Durham University, said: “This new international residential research library will see Durham University lend its world-class research expertise to the stunning collections at Ushaw, and further strengthens a partnership that has developed over a number of years.

“We are excited by what visiting researchers will discover in the Ushaw library and our support further demonstrates our commitment to North East England, in this case in conserving and enhancing our shared heritage.”

Exciting prospect

Peter Seed, Director of Operations at Ushaw, said: “We are excited at the prospect of welcoming researchers from across the world to Ushaw to explore the fantastic collections we have here.

“We have a successful and growing arts and education programme, and this project is further evidence of the positive future Ushaw has as a cultural destination.”

Rich history

Ushaw was founded as The English College, a Roman Catholic seminary in Douai, now north east France, in 1568. Its communities were expelled from France in the 18th century, and Ushaw College, four miles west of Durham City, was purpose-built between 1804 and 1808.

Its library includes around 30,000 early printed books and a major collection of archives and manuscripts, some of which formed part of the medieval monastic library of Durham Priory.

There is a strong emphasis on theology and church history, as well as large numbers of books on more secular subjects, including art, architecture, philosophy, archaeology and early travel. Many works are extremely rare and internationally significant.

Durham University and Ushaw’s partnership dates back to the 1960s, when Ushaw students began studying at the University, and University staff and students continue to work and study on site.

Under a separate agreement, as part of the delivery of its new Strategy, the University will continue to lease Ushaw’s East Wing until 2027. 

Unique establishment

Professor Paul D. Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean-Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University, said: “This unique establishment of an internationally significant residential research library represents the culmination of many years of shared exploration between Durham University and the Ushaw Trustees.

“It will further enhance the research capacity and profile of one of the UK’s leading universities. It will act both as a further draw to the region and as a major resource for the region. For the regional and national Catholic community, it will strengthen and extend very considerably the University’s already well-established commitment to being a major beacon for Catholic studies; a commitment which is unique amongst UK secular universities.

“We are immensely grateful to all who have worked with us over to the past seven years to bring us to this point. Similarly, we are immensely grateful, in anticipation, to all who will commit their much-needed support to bring this significant endeavour to full flower.”

Wonderful use

The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool and Chairman of the Trustees of Ushaw College said: “This is a wonderful use of the historic library at Ushaw College. So much Catholic heritage is enshrined in Ushaw and I am delighted that through this agreement it will be made more widely available to scholars from across the world and for future generations. It has been made possible through the partnership with Durham University, which continues to grow and develop.”

Exciting development

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, the Dean of Durham, said: “Durham has been a seat of learning for almost a millennium, a tradition which will undoubtedly be enhanced by the developments at Ushaw College. Durham Priory Library represents the best-preserved, best-catalogued Benedictine library in the UK and Ireland, with manuscripts surviving in the collections of Durham Cathedral, Durham University and Ushaw College.

“It will be a privilege to welcome researchers from across the world who are resident at Ushaw College to Durham Cathedral to study the remarkable manuscripts held here, and we look forward to hearing about the new discoveries which will be enabled by this exciting new development.”

Related Links

Ushaw College

Palace Green Library

Durham Cathedral

Durham Priory Library Recreated