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Oriental Museum


Copyright Newsquest Darlington & Stockton Times

Holi Festival

Happy Holi Everyone! Yesterday we celebrated Holi at the Oriental Museum for the first time and all 380 of our guests thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We painted two wall-sized elephants, made hundreds of Holi cards and spring window decorations and, most importantly, got covered head-to-toe in multi-coloured powder to celebrate the Indian Spring Festival and welcome the new season to Durham.

After the success of this year’s event we hope to continue our Holi celebrations and we endeavour to make next year’s Holi Festival bigger and better still. We would like to thank all of our visitors and wish everyone a Happy Holi!

March 2014

Durham University is pleased to acknowledge the 89th anniversary memory day of Dr Sun Yat-sen celebrated on 12 March annually. As is well known, Dr Sun Yat-sen is the statesman who united post-Imperial China. His three guiding principles were those of nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood.

Recently, Durham University’s Oriental Museum took possession of a bronze bust of Dr Sun Yat-sen which was donated by the Sun Yat-sen Foundation for Peace and Education. We are very proud of our Chinese collections as they are among the finest to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. This bust of Dr Sun augments the other impressive items in our collection and serves to recognise Dr Sun’s contribution to modern China.

Exceptional set of Japanese dolls going on display at Oriental Museum for the first time

A special set of traditional Japanese ornamental dolls will be going on display at the Oriental Museum for just two weeks from 16th February until 3rd March 2014.

The dolls were recently donated to the museum by a local Japanese family. They are designed for display at Hina Matsuri, the traditional Japanese festival known in English as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day, celebrated each year on 3rd March, when families pray for the health and happiness of the young girls in the family. 

The dolls represent the Emperor and Empress and all of their attendants in the traditional court dress of the Heian Period (794 to 1185 AD). The tradition of displaying dolls dates back to this period, more than 1000 years ago. 

This full set of traditional dolls is displayed on a stand seven tiers high. The Emperor and Empress are accompanied by their servants, musicians and ministers as well as items of furniture and even a carriage. 

Dr Craig Barclay, Museum Curator, said: ‘We are very excited to be able to share this beautiful set of dolls with our visitors for the first time this year. Today most families in Japan only have space to display a small set of dolls for Hina Matsuri. It is wonderful to have this complete set of these spectacular dolls to share with our visitors. Visitors will have to hurry though, we need to put the dolls away until next year on 4th March to avoid bad luck!’

There will be Doll’s Day activities for families in the museum on Saturday 1st March from 1-3pm, no need to book, just drop in. 

Kahanjar (knife) hilt, India, 1675-1725 CE

Kahanjar (knife) hilt, India, 1675-1725 CE

DCMS and Wolfson Foundation back Southern Asia Project

The Oriental Museum is delighted to have been awarded £83,250 from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Wolfson Foundation for the Southern Asia project. 

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced that the Oriental Museum had won the funding alongside 39 other museums and galleries across England. The grants will fund renovation and improvement projects, increasing access and enhancing displays of exhibits.

The Southern Asia project is the next phase of the refurbishment of the permanent galleries at the Oriental Museum. Level 2 of the Museum will be completely refurbished to create a new gallery for Himalayas, South Asia and South East Asia. The grant from DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation will fund electrical work, new flooring, new environmentally friendly LED lighting and new high security cases. 

The refurbished gallery on Level 2 will be designed to support teaching for schools (particularly reflecting recent changes in the National Curriculum) and at undergraduate and graduate level. We are also working with academics to include current Durham University research in the exhibits.

The displays will include Mughal jades, Indian jewellery, weapons and miniature paintings, South East Asian textiles, ceramics, metalwork and weaponry, Gandharan sculpture, Tibetan Buddhist Thankgas and other material relating to the religions of the region. 

February 2014 

The new Japan gallery opened in October 2013

Oriental Museum wins Silver at North East Tourism Awards

The Oriental Museum was awarded a Silver in the small visitor attraction of the year catagory at 2013's North East Tourism Awards. In making the award the judges described the Museum as a 'hidden gem'. The award reflects the major improvements that have been made to the Museum over the last five years with the creation of six new permanent galleries, new clubs and activities for families and the transformation of our support for schools. 

More than 400 members of the North-east business community attended the awards dinner, organised by the NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Chief executive Sarah Stewart said: "The judges had a really tough time this year, with an extremely high quality standard of applications. It was difficult in many cases to select one overall winner.

"I’d like to congratulate all of the winners, who have again proven that the tourism industry is one of the region’s most innovative economies, and thank everyone who was involved in making the awards such a great success."

The tourism trade is worth £3.6bn to the North-East economy and is estimated to support more than 54,000 jobs.

It was a particularly good night for Durham University. As well as the award for the Oriental Museum, the University won another silver and three gold awards. To find out more see this news story.

Oriental Museum highlighted as an example of best practice

A national report praising the growing success of university museums within the UK’s higher education sector has cited the Oriental Museum as an example of best practice. 

The new report, Impact and Engagement: University museums for the 21st century, published by the University Museums Group and University Museums in Scotland, has been welcomed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Wales (HEFCE).

The publication, launched at the recent Museums Association Conference in Liverpool, celebrates the growing success of university museums as part of the UK higher education sector, showing the unique benefits these collections deliver to the Higher Education, and wider cultural, sector. University museums make a unique contribution to the public profile of universities across the UK; they hold 30% of nationally-significant collections but constitute only 4% of England and Wales’ museums. Last year, more than 100 UK university museums hosted four million public visits to 200 exhibitions and 3,500 public events.

At the Oriental Museum, two projects were highlighted. First the work with the volunteer-run Chinese School and second an international project to enhance the conservation and interpretation of the Buddha's birthplace at Lumbini, Nepal. 

The full report is available to download here

New permanent gallery of Japan now open

We will be opening our new Japan gallery to the public on 25th October 2013.

The only gallery of its kind in the north of England, it has been created in direct response to visitor interest in contemporary Japanese art and culture. 

Dr Craig Barclay, Oriental Museum Curator, said: “The opening of this new gallery will provide people in the North of England with their first gallery dedicated solely to Japanese culture. We hope that the gallery, which will also act as a focus for events and temporary exhibition programmes, will provide local residents, tourists, school children and students with a unique opportunity to connect with the art and history of Japan.”

Within this new space, visitors will be able to see Edo Period wood block prints alongside anime movie cels; vintage kimono alongside modern street fashion and centuries old ceramics alongside pieces by 20th and 21st century masters. And of course, there will be samurai – to complement the historic arms and armour, the museum has purchased a completely new authentic set of Japanese samurai armour, made in traditional style specifically for this gallery. 

To celebrate the opening of the new gallery, an exhibition of contemporary Japanese printmaking entitled The Happy Carp will open on the same day.

The Happy Carp exhibition takes its name from a woodblock print by UK-based Japanese printmaker Nana Shiomi. Like many of the other artists featured in the exhibition, Nana’s work combines elements of traditional Japanese printmaking with modern techniques and materials. This combination of the traditional and the contemporary is emphasised by the range of techniques used by the artists from screen printing to digital works. It is also evident in the choice of subject matter which ranges from scenes of traditional Japanese architecture to the abstract. 

Dr Craig Barclay said: “This exhibition is a celebration of the endless flexibility and innovative power of Japanese art. Visitors will have an opportunity to see the best in contemporary Japanese print-making and to gain an understanding of the techniques used by modern artists working in this most traditional of Japanese media.”

Thanks to generous funding by the Art Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation over the last two years the Museum has been able to acquire a range of contemporary Japanese art, fashion and domestic goods to complement the existing historic Japanese collections. These will feature in both the permanent gallery and the temporary exhibition. The gallery space has also been moved to a new larger space within the museum which, with the support of the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) /Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, has been completely refurbished with state of the art display cases and environmentally friendly LED lighting. 

The opening of the new gallery has been timed to be part of Japan400, the series of events commemorating the start of diplomatic, trading, scientific and cultural relations between Britain and Japan in 1613. Through a host of exciting events during 2013, it celebrates the spirit of discovery and mutual regard that has inspired many successful collaborations and a remarkable friendship between our two societies. 

The Gallery of Japan is permanent, the Happy Carp exhibition will run until 30th March 2014. 

Traditional Korean wedding ducks on display in the new gallery

New permanent gallery of Korea opens

From 4th October, visitors will be able to enjoy our brand new gallery celebrating the arts and culture of Korea.

This is the first time in the museum's history that it has had a gallery dedicated solely to the history and culture of the Korean peninsula. 

The oldest objects on display date back more than a thousand years to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 CE) and the displays will include calligraphy, ceramics, furniture and musical instruments. Researchers from Durham University's Music Department have worked with museum curators to provide recordings of all of the musical instruments on display so that visitors can hear what the Korean instruments sound like as well as see them. 

Alongside the historic material will be new contemporary pieces, collected by the museum specifically for this gallery. These range from contemporary Korean ceramics and textiles to K-pop and children's toys.

Lauren Barnes, Curator of the new gallery, said: “This has been a really exciting project to work on. For the first time visitors to the Oriental Museum will be able to learn more about the distinctive and fascinating culture of Korea. I hope that the variety and quality of the objects on display will offer a real insight into the unique traditions of the peninsula and reveal the wide spectrum of artistic and technical skill, innovation, and beauty that Korea has to offer.”

The gallery has been possible through the support of the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, the Friends of the Oriental Museum and Stories of the World (part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, supported by the Arts Council for England).

Visit the Oriental Museum for free


Be part of an enlightening journey as the Lindisfarne Gospels go on show in Durham from 1 July to 30 September 2013. The exhibition is a must see contemporary interpretation of the North's most enduring story, the tale of our famous saint Cuthbert, and a chance to see some of Britain's most significant medieval manuscripts alongside stunning Anglo-Saxon treasures.

Lindisfarne Gospels Durham: one amazing book, one incredible journey leads visitors on an exploration of the meaning and contexts of the book, learning how and why this masterpiece was created, its influence on Medieval Europe and how artistic and Christian traditions from Britain, Ireland and the Mediterranean mainland came together in North East England. The exhibition, being held in Durham University's Palace Green Library will also include fabulous artefacts wrought from precious metals and minerals including gold, garnet and silver and stone sculpture alongside uniquely important medieval manuscripts including the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Durham Gospels. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the Lindisfarne gospel book itself, written in honour of St Cuthbert and displayed alongside the relics from his shrine. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities for visitors, especially children and families, to discover how Medieval manuscripts were created and to virtually turn the pages of the book to explore the beauty and detail of the book's illuminated pages.

The exhibition is the centrepiece of a huge range of events and exhibitions that are taking place across the region this summer. As part of this celebration, the Oriental Museum is offering free entry to anyone showing their ticket for Lindisfarne Gospels Durham: one amazing book, one incredible journey when they come into the museum.

Museum wins Artfund prize

The Oriental Museum is one of nine museums that have won a share of £75,000 and acquired a work of contemporary art through Art Fund Collect, a scheme which offers UK museums the chance to enhance their contemporary collections.

The museum has acquired the piece ' - +, -' by Koreans ceramic artist Min Soo Lee. 

Curator Craig Barclay said, 'We absolutely love this piece because it is all things to all people. It is a marvellous piece of ceramic work and it reflects continuity in tradition in Korean pottery making but also reflects a modern age. 

'We hope to have it as the centrepiece of our new Korean gallery and we are absolutely certain that the public will love it and continue to engage with it.'

The new Korean gallery is under development at the moment and is due to open in early October 2013.

Kahanjar (knife) hilt, India, 1675-1725 CE

Oriental Museum secures funding for South Asian community project

The Oriental Museum is to transform access to its South Asian and Himalayan collections thanks to a grant from the Arts Council.

In the face of fierce competition from museums and galleries across the country, the Oriental Museum has secured £114,000 from the Arts Council’s Renaissance Strategic Support Fund. 

The money will be used to fund a two year project focusing on the museum’s collections from India and other countries across South Asia and the Himalayas, researching the collections, supporting community and youth engagement work and creating resources for a new gallery at the museum planned to open in 2015. 

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, Arts Council England said ‘This two year project will transform the South Asian and Himalayan collections of the Durham University Oriental Museum into an accessible resource; enhancing the visitor experience, supporting community and youth engagement work, and promoting scholarship. To complement a new permanent gallery at the museum this project will develop a complementary regional touring exhibition, review and research the collections, develop learning resources for schools and build community links and programmes. Our investment will enable people to engage with the fabulous collections in the north east.’

For more updates as the project progresses, see our Redevelopment project updates. More information on the objects to be studied can be found in our Collections pages.

(April 2013)

North East museums set out to ‘Make Carbon History’


With the UK Government committing to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, museums across the North East are playing their part in helping the UK to achieve this target with the launch of a new initiative called Make Carbon History. The Oriental Museum is one of the museums taking part. 

Led by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) through the Museum Development Programme funded by Arts Council England, Make Carbon History is a two-year programme of support that will enable museums to reduce their carbon footprint by 12% by 2015, whilst helping to create a sustainable future for communities across the region.

The not-for-profit low-carbon consultancy, CO2Sense, will work with 8 museums, including the Oriental Museum, to identify and implement practical solutions to minimise their carbon emissions through reduced grid energy demand and sustainable facility management. These measures will allow the museums to reduce their energy bills, whilst also creating a more comfortable environment for visitors, staff and volunteers. The other 7 museums across the region currently engaged in this project are Bede’s World, Heugh Gun Battery Museum, Killhope Lead Mining Museum, Woodhorn Museum, Durham Light Infantry museum, mima (Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art), and Hexham Old Gaol.

Sarah Carr, Senior Museum Development Officer at TWAM, says:

“The Make Carbon History initiative is about creating a sustainable future for the region’s museums and to ensure that they can continue to have a positive impact on their surrounding communities”.

 “The purpose of museums is to inspire and educate and I hope that the action we are taking to address climate change, will also influence museum audiences to look at how they can implement sustainability and reduce their own carbon footprint”.

(April 2013)

Oriental Museum wins gold!

The Oriental Museum has achieved a Gold award in the Visit England Green Tourism Business Scheme, for demonstrating excellence in environmental practice and promoting sustainable tourism. 

The Green Tourism Business Scheme is the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK. The scheme honours venues that demonstrate high levels of commitment in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable tourism with bronze, silver and gold awards. Award winners are scrutinized on over 150 separate measures in 10 different areas by qualified independent advisors before being given the relevant award.

In 2010 the Oriental Museum achieved a Silver award and over the last two years staff have worked hard to move up to Gold. The museum was particularly praised for the way in which the current refurbishment of the museum’s galleries is being undertaken. Power-hungry fluorescent and halogen lights have been replaced by low energy LED lighting and staff have gone to great efforts to reuse and recycle where possible. A number of water saving measures have been put in place and energy and water use are closely monitored. The green ethos extends to the museum’s café and shop with an emphasis on Fairtrade and ethically traded goods.   

Museum Curator Dr Craig Barclay said: “We are absolutely delighted to have achieved this gold award. The Green Tourism Business Scheme set the standards for environmentally-responsible tourist organisations and we are absolutely committed to supporting their work.  

“The bar for achieving the Gold Award is set very high, and it is a measure of the commitment of the Durham University Museums team that we have been able to meet this demanding standard. 

“Achievement of the Gold Award will not however mark an end to our efforts to be environmentally responsible. We will continue seek new ways of improving our Green credentials and ensuring that our visitors can enjoy their visit to the Oriental Museum in the knowledge that they are also doing their bit to protect our environment.”

(October 2012)

Artists showcase work inspired by Durham’s Oriental Museum

A new exhibition opening on Friday 28th September at Durham University’s Oriental Museum highlights the work of two artists who have been working with the museum’s collections for more than twenty years.

Re:collection showcases the work of Stephen Livingstone and Bill Woods.  Stephen and Bill have worked together as artists and teachers since 1991 and during this time they have introduced hundreds of young people to the wonderful collections at the Oriental Museum.  Their regular visits to the museum have also rubbed off on their own work and this exhibition brings together some of their own personal responses to the collection.

Stephen creates drawings, objects and books.  His work deals with human impact upon landscapes, how we change the environment, and the way in which we view these changes.  For this exhibition he has adapted traditional Chinese drawing techniques to produce a series of panoramic mountain-scapes.

Bill is a highly-skilled studio potter.  His work is hand built, made using coiling, modeling and moulding methods.  It is then finely decorated using metallic and other finishes. 

Museum Curator Dr Craig Barclay said: “Bill and Stephen have brought school groups to the Oriental Museum for many years, and we have been delighted to showcase the work produced by these children in a number of exhibitions.  It is wonderful at last to be able to share some of Bill and Stephen’s own work with our visitors.  We are sure this will be a very popular exhibition.”

Re:collection opens to the public on Friday, 28th September, and runs until Sunday, 16th December, 2012. 

Stolen museum objects recovered

(April 2012)


The police have recovered the two objects stolen from the Oriental Museum on 5th April. 

The artefacts were recovered by the police on Friday 13th April from a field in the Brandon area, a few miles to the south-west of Durham city.  Both items have been examined by experts from Durham University who have confirmed that they are in excellent condition, with no apparenty damage resulting from their removal from the museum. 

The police thanked the public for responding to appeals for reports of suspicious activity in and around the Durham city area at the time of the incident.  The investigation into the theft is ongoing.

Oriental Museum

Oriental Museum to reopen on Monday 16 April

(April 2012)

The Oriental Museum will reopen on Monday 16 April at 10am after being temporarily closed following a break-in when two ancient Chinese artefacts were stolen.

The museum has been temporarily closed to the public following the theft earlier this month (April 5).

Damage caused during the burglary has been repaired and the Oriental Museum will reopen its doors to the public 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 at Palace Green Library, 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.

Oriental Museum achieves national award

(March 2012)

The Oriental Museum has won a national award for its commitment to listen and act upon the views of young people.  The Bronze Hear by Right Award has been presented by the National Youth Agency.

The award was launched in 2010 to provide organisations that put young people's voices at the heart of service delivery and development with the opportunity to gain national recognition for their achievements. 

The award is evaluated at three levels - Bronze, Silver and Gold - and the Oriental Museum has achieved recognition at Bronze level. 

Craig Barclay, Curator of the Oriental Museum, said: "We are delighted to have achieved this award which reflects the fantastic work of our staff in engaging with young people of the region. Through our Stories of the World project, students from various local schools are able to design their own exhibitions and have been given unparalleled access to museum objects. This has benefited not only the students, but the museum as a whole."

During the project students have been trained in object handling, have designed and installed their own exhibitions, given their own guided tours around the museum and designed a children's trail.  For the current exhibition 'Manga: Made in Japan' they have even produced their own Japanese Manga art. The project continues during 2012.

Student Rachel Smith said: "I have been able to make an impact on the exhibition, which has helped me feel valuable to the museum and also the Stories of the World project."

The Japanese gallery will be completely refurbished

Museum wins funding for new Japan and Korea galleries

(February 2012)


Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has announced that the Oriental Museum will be one of 36 museums from across the UK to receive funding from the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. 

The grant, totally more than £80,000 will be used to help fund the next phase of the museum's redevelopment programme - new galleries dedicated to Japan and Korea. 

The museum's Japanese collections are very rich and diverse.  Most of the collection dates from the Edo Period (1603-1868 CE) and Meiji Era (1868-1912 CE) but there are also important pieces which date to earlier periods.  The strengths of the collection include Edo Period ukiyo-e (floating world) woodblock prints, early photography, weaponry, ivory carvings and ceramics.

The Korean collection is much smaller, numbering only just over 300 objects and as a consequence the Oriental Museum has never had a Korean gallery.  Despite its small size, this collection includes a wide range of objects from musical instruments to textiles, coins, weapons, ceramics and furniture.  Some objects date back as far as the Koryo Period (935-1392 CE) while the collection also includes an important collection of 20th century objects collected by the Right Reverend Richard Rutt, an Anglican cleric, who worked in Korea for many years. 

In recent years the Japanese collections have become increasingly popular with schools as a topic for art.  The GCSE curriculum now includes study of a  'non-Western art tradition' and many schools opt to look at Japan and particularly the development of Manga (modern Japanese comics) from the artistic story-telling tradition of woodblock prints and early Japanese storytelling scrolls.  The Oriental Museum has recently obtained funding from the ArtFund to create a new collection of contemporary Japanese art.  This grant will allow the museum to purchase new contemporary material that can also be included in the new gallery. 

Planning and research for the galleries is now underway.  Building work will commence in the galleries in January 2013 with the aim of opening the new displays in autumn 2013.

'Apple' by Li Lihong

New Chinese gallery now open

(November 2011) 

On 11th November the Oriental Museum opened a brand new gallery devoted to the museum's internationally important collections of Chinese art and archaeology. 

The creation of the new gallery is the culimination of two years of intensive research into the museum's collections.  Chinese art-historian Xiaoxin Li has re-examined thousands of objects and re-evaluated their importance.  Craig Barclay, the museum's curator said, 'New archaeological finds are being made all the time in China that are reshaping our understanding of the history of China.  There is also a huge amount of new research being undertaken on Chinese art in China itself, as well as across the world. Xiaoxin's work has enabled us to reconsider and redisplay our wonderful collections in the light of this new understanding.'

The gallery features ceramics, ancient jades, bronzes, and works on paper.  At the heart of the gallery is a new display of Chinese ceramics covering more than 5000 years of history, from the Neolithic Period to the present day.  The skill of Chinese potters and the extraordinary beauty of their creations has been recognised throughout history.  This new gallery will give museums goers in the North-East a unique opportunity to enjoy and learn more about these beautiful artworks.


artwork from anime TV series UFO Baby

Durham's Oriental Museum secures funding boost for Japanese collection

(September 2011)


Durham University's Oriental Museum is to boost its collections of Japanese art thanks to a grant from the Art Fund RENEW scheme.

In the face of fierce competition from museums and galleries across the UK, the Oriental Museum was one of just five successful RENEW projects, securing £50,000. The money will be used to develop a new collection of material, Made in Japan, relating to and reflecting contemporary Japanese popular culture.

The new collection will include manga and anime, fashion and costumes, and cutting-edge design, as well as contemporary ceramics and prints. 

The image shown here is original artwork from the Japanese anime TV series UFO Baby purchased by the Oriental Museum in 2010 to support art teaching at GCSE and A-level. The new collection will build on this and other recent purchases to greatly expand the potential to support students at all levels studying contemporary Japanese art. The Oriental Museum will be working with Durham University's School of Education, students fromTeikyo University of Japan in Durham and other external partners to build the collection of work over the coming year.

RENEW aims to build future centres of excellence by supporting fresh areas of collecting. The initiative is part of the Art Fund's commitment to increase funding to museums and galleries by over 50% by 2014.  For more information see the Art Fund website

New Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt

The new Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt opened on Saturday 23rd July 2011

The gallery has been designed with children in mind, both families and the thousands of school children who visit the museum each year to learn about Ancient Egypt.  Children will be able to dress up as Ancient Egyptians or have a go at playing a giant version of the Egyptian game senet.  There are drawers to open and displays at lower levels to make it easier for smaller visitors to see the objects. 

The gallery is not just for children. The Oriental Museum has by far the largest, and finest, Ancient Egyptian collection in the North East and opening this gallery triples the number of objects on public display.  Visitors can see objects ranging from exquisite jewellery to pieces of ancient bread, preserved in a tomb for more than 2000 years. 

Teachers can now make bookings for the new gallery for sessions from September 2011 onwards.   For more information, see the 4 schools website.   

Exhibited for the first time outside London, contemporary woodcut prints


Durham University's Oriental Museum is opening an exhibition of contemporary Chinese woodcut prints on Saturday 11th June 2011. The museum will be the first museum in the North of England to display these prints, assembled by the Muban Foundation, and never before exhibited outside of London.

Discover the diverse nature of China through an exploration of Chinese people, landscapes and traditions, represented within a range of contemporary woodcut prints.

The exhibition has been created by Durham University students studying for an MA in Museum Studies.  Team leader Stephanie Marsden said 'China is not a monoculture but a multicultural nation, whose landscape, people, and traditions constitute a diverse and fascinating society.  We hope that through this exhibition of woodcut prints visitors can begin to explore Chinese culture and challenge their own ideas'.

Diverse Impressions runs until 18th September 2011  (June 2011)

Qing dynasty rank badge from new gallery

New Chinese gallery now open


A new permanent gallery, showcasing the museum's important Chinese collections is now open to the public.  Marvels of China aims to introduce visitors to the wonders of this ancient culture.  Accessible displays, designed with families and younger visitors in mind, cover topics ranging from festivals to families, silk to scholars. 

The Oriental Museum is home to one of the UK's most important Chinese collections.  Objects range in date from the Neolithic Period to the modern day and include ivory, lacquerware, jade, bronzes, silk and ceramics.  The centrepiece of new displays is the museum's impressive Chinese bed.  Created in the 1840's for English trader Lancelot Dent, the bed is a liang chuang or 'cool bed' designed for use in the hot climate of southern China.  The bed would have been hung with light weight curtains to allow air flow but keep out insects.  The Museum has worked with the Embroiderers Guild to create a complete set of replica hangings and bedding for the bed to give visitors a better idea of how it would have looked when it was in use in the 19th century.

The Museum's second Chinese gallery opened in November 2011 (see above). 

10 March 2011

Local photographers highlight the plight of child labourers in South East Asia

(February 2011)

A glimpse into the complex lives of children growing up in South East Asia today is provided by a new exhibition opening this week (11th February) at Durham University's Oriental Museum.

Over the past two years, Stanley-based photographers Paul Johnson and Jackie Neil have travelled extensively through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam documenting the lives of children across the region.  This exhibition of their work, entitled Can we play now?, highlights the continuing tension between work, play and education in the lives of some of the young people they met.

Curator Craig Barclay said: "Countries in South East Asia have made huge strides in improving the lives of children in recent years.  However, the region continues to face issues of child labour and child trafficking.  Children continue to be exploited as beggars, in domestic labour, in manufacturing and fishing industries, agriculture and in bars and restaurants serving the tourist markets.  Many of these children receive little or no schooling as a result.  The photographs taken by Paul and Jackie highlight the plight of just a few of these children. We hope this exhibition will provide visitors with an enjoyable, but also thought provoking, experience."

Can we play now? opens to the public on Friday 11th February and runs until Sunday 5th June 2011. 

All change at the Museum

(October 2010) 

The Oriental Museum opened to the public in May 1960.  This year we are celebrating the museum's Golden Jubilee and, in addition to Jubilee celebrations, museum staff have been planning major changes to the galleries, classrooms, shop and café.  Pretty much every part of the museum is getting an overhaul. 

We have set out an ambitious programme of development for the next five years.  Consultation with Friends and other groups has been going on throughout the year as we have honed our plans.  Now major work is about to commence, and regular updates will be added to this News section to keep visitors up to date.  Follow the Redevelopment Project link on the left to read more.  We would welcome your comments and questions on the redevelopment programme.  

Launch of the Treasures of the Oriental Museum book

(July 2010)

On 30th June 2010 University Chancellor, Bill Bryson, launched the Treasures of the Oriental Museum, Durham University.  The book's introduction traces the history of the collections and their arrival in Durham and the 50 short essays that accompany the objects have been written by artists, curators, researchers, students and collectors from the UK and around the world, offering a wide range of viewpoints on this enormously varied and fascinating collection, accompanied by all new colour photography of these stunning objects.

Launching the book, Bill Bryson echoed the words he used in the foreword to the book, urging anyone who has yet to visit the Oriental Museum to "drop everything and go at once. It's that good."

Museum Curator Craig Barclay said: "I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly with the Chancellor's comments.  The book is a marvellous celebration of some of the most wonderful cultural treasures in the region and we are confident that it will attract great interest from around the world."

Copies of the book can be ordered from the Durham University Online Shop.