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Durham University

Technician Commitment

A message to our Technicians

Dear Members of the Technical Staff
We continue to work within the shadow of the pandemic but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our Technical staff continue to work tirelessly and have enabled facilities to operate and increased research productivity. Moreover, our technical teams are working closely with our Academic and Professional Services staff in preparation to welcome our new intake of students at the beginning of the academic year. As Chair of the Technician Commitment, I write again to thank all our Technical staff for your continued effort and contribution in supporting Durham University. Thank you.

The University continues to recognise the important value the work and contribution delivered by Technicians, and their essential role in partnership with our Academic and Professional Services staff. Please visit our website ( to see some of the many examples of where our Technicians have made important contributions to the operation of our departments and the delivery of research and education, particularly through the challenging times of the pandemic.The Technician Commitment Steering Group is currently working to produce a regular newsletter, support activities, and planning for another event for Technical Staff. Please expect to hear more from the Steering Group shortly.

Professor Stefan Przyborski
Chair Technician Commitment Steering Group


University Museum Technicians – working on site throughout Covid

(1 November 2021)

Removing fragile artworks from old unsuitable frames

Technical staff have worked on site at the University’s Museums throughout the pandemic ensuring the safety and security of the collections as well as undertaking major new development projects.

 When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, the British Museum touring exhibition Pushing Paper: contemporary drawing from 1970 to now had just opened at the Oriental Museum. This major exhibition featured works by artists such as David Hockney, Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry. One of the conditions of the loan of these artworks was that the museum had to be staffed every day and the exhibition monitored for any changes in environmental conditions. Museum technicians Mel and Phil Smith stepped up to undertake this work. Each artwork was checked individually every day and detailed readings on humidity and temperature recorded with adjustments made to compensate for any fluctuations. They also undertook similar duties at the range of other sites across the university used for secure storage of museum collections. Once curatorial staff were able to return to the Oriental Museum in August 2020, work recommenced on the construction of a new ‘ Silk Roads ’
gallery on the ground floor of the Museum.
Mel and Phil were responsible for the creation of a wide range of bespoke mounts for objects to be featured in the gallery as well as building an entire ‘room’ complete with traditionally crafted Chinese screen windows, for the Chinese bed which sits at the centre of the gallery. In December 2020, the Oriental Museum was awarded AHRC funding to undertake a complete refurbishment of its research and storage facilities. When the new lockdown came into force in January 2020, most of the other staff due to work on this project returned to working from home. As father and son, Mel and Phil were able to keep working together in a family bubble as part of the small team that stayed on site to complete the project.

In just three months they moved more than 35,000 objects into temporary storage, oversaw the fitting of new museum grade storage and then moving all 35,000 objects back into their new in-store locations. The objects being moved range from the small and fragile to the large pieces of complex furniture.
Skilled technical staff are essential to the success of projects like this.
Staff are now working towards reopening to the public in May 2021,
with our technicians working tirelessly to make the changes necessary to keep visitors safe in the galleries. While upgrading the displays ready for the opening