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Researching the collections

Our collections are currently being used by students and academics studying at Masters, PhD level and beyond in Durham and at universities around the world. Museum staff are happy to provide information on the collections, supply publication quality images, and arrange for research visits. We will do our best to facilitate all researchers, while still caring for our collections

Recognising that visiting researchers in particular may travel long distance to work for a relatively short period, the Museums’ staff will make every effort to maximise the effectiveness of your visit. Subject to available time and expertise, museum staff can also undertake research for those unable to visit the museums. Scans, database records or images suitable for research can be emailed to the researcher.

If you are interested in using our collections for your research, please refer to our guidance for researchers document which you can download from the box on the right-hand side of the page.


To obtain permission to publish images supplied to you for research purposes, please complete the 'permission to publish' form downloadable from the box on the right-hand side of this page and return it to the museum.

Information on rates for commercial publication can obtained by emailing

REF impact

This guidance is intended to help academics planning REF impact as part of grant applications.

One aspect of assessing impact under REF involves engaging the public with research. Durham’s University Museums can work with academic partners to help achieve this kind of impact.

Key points regarding this kind of impact include:

  • Public engagement activities must show ‘a distinctive contribution of the department’s research’ – there must be a clear link between defined research outcomes and the impact
  • The impact case study must clearly define the SIGNIFICANCE or BENEFITS arising from the public engagement activity. This must go beyond showing how the research was disseminated. – creating an exhibition is not enough, evaluation of that exhibition is vital if benefit is to be demonstrated.
  • The best case studies go beyond ‘business as usual’ engagement such as public lectures to attract widespread interest or involve a programme of activity which is innovative, sustainable or creates legacy resources.
  • HEFCE suggest that a timeframe of up to 15 years between impact and the underpinning research is broadly appropriate if the institution remains active in the relevant area of research – public engagement activities with the museums are not a quick fix, to achieve their full potential they should be planned in, at least in outline, at the point of grant writing.

Durham currently has two museum/gallery spaces which can be used for these activities

  • Palace Green Library exhibition galleries
  • Oriental Museum

At both venues exhibition schedules are confirmed up to two or three years in advance. Departments wishing to work with Museum staff on impact related activities are urged to contact the relevant staff as early as possible in the planning of their project. We can recommend a range of public engagement options and provide costs for insertion into grant applications.

Please contact Dr Craig Barclay if you would like any more information.

Discover our collections

Search Durham collections using our online database. Explore items from the Oriental Museum that aren't on display.

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