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Past Exhibitions

Find out more about our past exhibitions.

Norman Cornish

This exhibition of little seen sketchbooks presented a new dimension to the artist’s practice.
Norman Cornish sketch of two men at the pub, courtesy of the Norman Cornish estate.


This exhibition showed how animals have adapted to live and thrive in the varied environments of the British Isles.
Wild Exhibition Logo

Catch Your Breath

Catch Your Breath was a temporary exhibition exploring the Life of Breath research project, jointly led by Durham University and the University of Bristol.
Still from Johanna (2016), courtesy of Ian Derry, showing a free-diver under ice reaches for the surface.

Bodies of Evidence

This exhibition revealed how pieces of a complex jigsaw of evidence were put together to establish information on two mass burials discovered near Palace Green Library.
Archaeologists uncovering a skeleton


This exhibition followed the story of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and included books and manuscripts from the internationally renowned collections of Mr Livio Ambrogio.
Illustration from The Divine Comedy.

Between Worlds

This temporary exhibition took its inspiration from medieval romance, ballads, and collections of folklore, presenting a forgotten type of fairy tale.
Between Worlds exhibition logo

Time Machines

This exhibition invited visitors to journey through time to learn how advances in science allowed authors like HG Wells to write about future worlds.
Time Machines exhibition logo

Northern Poets

Originally shown at Woodhorn, this exhibition was influenced by the Northern Poetry Library and Palace Green Library collections.
A poet writes in their notebook

Hearing Voices

This exhibition was based on the work of Hearing the Voice, a large interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Hearing Voices exhibition logo

Somme 1916

100 years on, this commemorative exhibition explored the reality of the Battle of the Somme through the eyes of the people from County Durham who were there.
Somme 1916 exhibition logo


A series of exhibitions, including historic photographs of Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition, and the work of Durham University researchers in Antarctica.
Antarctica exhibition logo

Rugby World Cup

This display showcased match balls from the England team’s campaign and spectacular victory at the 2003 Rugby World Cup tournament.
World Field, Home Soil exhibition logo

Magna Carta

This exhibition explored the Magna Carta as part of a long history of the contested identity of the citizen.
Magna Carta exhibition logo

Vietnam: A Nation, Not A War

This exhibition mixed historic and contemporary objects from Vietnam with contemporary works by British artist Anthony Key.
Vietnam boy wood carving

On Seeing The Author

This exhibition explored how people have imagined ancient authors over time, focussing on Cosin’s Library; a 17th century building decorated with portraits of authors.
On Seeing the Author exhibition illustration

Face to Face Encounters

This exhibition in Cosin’s Library was the result of a commission of author portraits by photographer Julian Germain, contributing to the On Seeing the Author exhibition.
Cosin's Library interior

Bound to Last

Visitors to this exhibition explored the history of bookbinding, discovered how books are put together and just how recent the ‘ready-bound’ book really is.
Bound to Last exhibition logo

Books for Boys

The exhibition celebrated a golden age of books for children, including tales of real-life heroes, early spy novels, and popular classics such as ‘Scouting for Boys’.
Books for Boys young soldier illustration

Off the Wall

Curated by Durham University’s Oriental Museum, using their collection of Japanese movie posters, the exhibition explored this world of bold and playful graphic design.
The Off the Wall gallery during the exhibition.

The Seven Treasures

This exhibition presented a complete picture of one of Japan’s most exquisite art forms, Cloisonné, featuring exquisite enamels on loan from the V&A.
Seven Treasures workshop event


A thrilling exhibition of robots, cyborgs and androids, including an event where robots battled on stage in front of an excited family audience.
Robot poster image

The Lindisfarne Gospels

This exhibition led visitors on an exploration of the meaning and contexts of the book, including learning how and why this masterpiece was created.
The Lindisfarne Gospels book in display case

The Birth of Buddhism

Presenting the story of the birth and life of Siddhartha Gautama, later recognised as the Buddha, and the early spread of Buddhism in South Asia.
A close-up of the gold eyes of a statue of Buddha.

The Practical Art of Medicine

How medicine developed from ancient, entrenched theories to the knowledge of anatomy, plus the method of diagnosis and nature of treatment more recognisable to us today.
Vesalius human brain illustration.


The exhibition celebrated Bishop Cosin's life and achievements through the difficult years of the English Civil War and into the Restoration period.
Cosin’s library

Outrageously Modern

Visitors entered the world of late 19th century publishing and explored a range of ground-breaking and, in some cases, notorious literary and art magazines.
The Yellow Book spines

Historic Views of Durham

This exhibition brought together a series of historic views of the city to celebrate Palace Green’s 25 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
View of Durham engraving

John Stainer - A Life in Music

The exhibition celebrated the contribution that John Stainer made to the musical life of Victorian Britain and the legacy of his work in music today.
John Stainer photographic portrait

Thomas Wright of Durham

This exhibition marked the 300th anniversary of Thomas Wright’s birth and tells the story of the life and achievements of this true local hero.
Thomas Wright theory drawing

The Return of the First Folio

A rare Shakespeare First Folio, stolen from Durham University in 1998, was displayed in our opening Spotlight exhibition for the first time since its theft.
Students viewing First Folio in library