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Research

Durham enters partnership with iconic Palace Museum

(7 December 2016)

Durham University and China’s Palace Museum have signed an agreement, bringing together these two world-renowned centres of research and cultural excellence for the first time. The agreement, which is the first between the Palace Museum and an English university, builds on Durham University’s already strong links with China

World leading research and collections

The new partnership has developed from research currently being undertaken between the University’s Department of Archaeology and experts from the Palace Museum in Beijing, into early examples of Chinese porcelain found in Europe. The research aims to reveal more about the trading history of China as far back as the tenth Century AD.

The agreement will see the Department of Archaeology, which was ranked fifth in the world in the 2016 QS World University Subject Rankings, working closely with experts at the Palace Museum on research in areas such as the distribution of ancient Chinese cultural artefacts in the Middle East and Europe. Opportunities for collaboration on teaching in areas including museums and heritage will also be explored. 

Specialists in museum curation and exhibitions from both the Palace Museum and the University’s Oriental Museum will also have the opportunity to share expertise on exhibition planning and cultural engagement.

The agreement could see staff from each organisation working together to share knowledge, expertise, skills, research and training.

UK delegation in China

The agreement between Durham University and the Palace Museum was signed as part of the ongoing series of People to People diplomatic talks between the UK and China, which cover a range of topics including culture, education, science and creative industries.

In the latest round of these talks a delegation from the UK, including government ministers, MPs, business leaders as well as representatives from Durham University, have journeyed to China to share knowledge and experiences. 

Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities), who signed the agreement on behalf of Durham University at the talks in Shanghai, said: “This partnership is a wonderful example of two leading cultural and educational organisations joining forces for advancement in both research and cultural engagement. 

“Durham University is home to a world-class Archaeology department and Oriental Museum, with significant research and teaching strengths in Eurasian archaeology, museums and heritage. Our hope is that this new collaboration will help us to develop these strengths even further.”

Global centres of excellence

The Palace Museum is one of the most prestigious museums in the world and holds vast collections of paintings, calligraphy, ceramics and antiquities. It is housed in the iconic Forbidden City complex in Beijing.

The University’s Oriental Museum is home to one of the UK’s leading collections of Chinese artefacts, including ceramics, silks, paintings and one of the largest holdings of jades and hardstones in the country. The Oriental Museum’s Chinese collection was awarded Designated Collection status by Arts Council England in 2008, placing it amongst best collections in England.

The Palace Museum and Durham University are also recognised as centres of global cultural importance, with both holding UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

International outlook

Durham University is home to over 1,700 students from China and offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese Studies which gives students the opportunity to spend a year living and studying in China. There are also a number of student-focused Chinese groups and societies providing support, cultural and social opportunities to the University’s Chinese students, as well as the wider student body.

Each year the Durham Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) helps hundreds of Chinese students settle into British university life and holds a variety of events including careers workshops, charity balls, an Asian festival, and a Chinese New Year concert. It also welcomes students from other countries, offering free Mandarin and Cantonese lessons and opportunities to experience Chinese culture.

You can watch Ran Zhang, a post-graduate student in the Department of Archaeology, talk about his experiences at Durham University here

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