Oriental Museum

oriental museum servant girl
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The Oriental Museum is the only museum in the North of Britain devoted solely to the art and archaeology of the Orient. The remarkable collections reveal the great cultures of Asia; the Near and Middle East; and North Africa.

Highlights include the Chinese and Ancient Egyptian collections, which are Designated Collections of national importance.

Venue Type:

Museum

Opening hours

Mon - Fri 10.00-17.00
Sat - Sun & Bank Holidays 12.00-17.00

Closed: Between Christmas & New Year

Admission charges

Adults: £1.50
Children 5-16 and Over 60s: 75p
Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children): £3.50
Free on production of relevant ID: Friends of the Oriental Museum, students in higher education, Durham University staff, Armed Forces, MA and NACF members

Discounts

  • Museums Association

Additional info

See website for details

The Oriental Museum's collections number over 23,500 objects and range in date from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary arts. The collections cover the history and arts of the great cultures of Ancient Egypt, China, Japan, South and South East Asia and Islamic North Africa. The Chinese and Ancient Egyptian collections are Designated Collections of national importance.

The Egyptian collection is one of the best Egyptology resources in Britain. It ranges from the Pre-Dynastic to the Coptic periods in date and includes a wide selection of objects ranging from monumental sculpture to woven sandals. Numerous items of exceptional quality and international significance are included. Particular highlights are a unique 18th Dynasty boxwood carving of a Nubian servant girl; the 18th Dynasty polychrome sycamore boxes of Perpawty; and a fine 13th Dynasty granite statue of the vizier Paser.

The Chinese collection is one of the most comprehensive in Europe. It is a significant and representative collection of pieces from earlier dynasties as well as numerous fine examples from later dynasties. The museum recently purchased (2007) a portfolio of 60 contemporary Chinese prints, representing the work of many of China’s best contemporary printmakers.

Collection details

World Cultures, Weapons and War, Religion, Decorative and Applied Art, Costume and Textiles, Coins and Medals, Archives, Archaeology

Key artists and exhibits

  • 4th Duke of Northumberland's collection of Egyptian antiquities
  • Wellcome Collection of Ancient Egyptian objects
  • Malcolm MacDonald Collection of Chinese Ceramics
  • Sir Charles Hardinge Collection of Chinese jades and bronzes
  • Henry De Laszlo Collection Chinese Collection
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
chinese labour corps exhibition at the Oriental Museum

A Good Reputation Endures Forever: The Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front

  • 7 April — 24 September 2017 *on now

An exhibition exploring the role of the thousands of Chinese who risked their lives alongside the British armed forces during the First World War.

96,000 Chinese men volunteered to work for Britain in the First World War as part of the Chinese Labour Corps. They undertook essential and often dangerous work behind the lines on the western front and thousands lost their lives. Yet their contribution was barely acknowledged at the end of the war and in the years that have followed they have been largely written out of histories of the war. They have been described as the 'forgotten of the forgotten'.

This exhibition examines the vital role of the Chinese Labour Corps using historic photographs and objects created by the men at the front.

Oriental Museum, Elvet Hill, Durham, DH1 3TH

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

Oriental Museum

Admission

Normal museum admission prices apply.

Website

https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/exhibitions/

Macdonald gallery

China in the MacDonald Gallery

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

Highlights include Tang dynasty tomb models, an exquisite Song dynasty Dingware wedding bowl, a shufu cup and Qing dynasty monochromes.

This gallery is named after Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald, the politician and diplomat.

MacDonald was also a passionate collector of Chinese ceramics and the backbone of this gallery is dedicated to fulfilling his dream of creating a chronological display of the development of this most Chinese of art forms from the Neolithic to the present day.

The Oriental Museum’s Chinese collections have been granted Designated Collection status in recognition of their national and international importance and the rest of this gallery does not disappoint. Highlights include ancient burial jades - including rare body protectors - and ceremonial weapons. There are also ancient bronzes and intricately carved Ming and Qing dynasty jade ornaments.

This gallery was funded by the Designation Development Fund and the Art Fund.

Admission

Normal museum admission applies

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20817

West asian tile

West Asia

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

This region of the world has always been a melting pot of beliefs, cultures and artistic traditions. This rich and complex heritage is reflected in the displays in this area.

Focusing on the early centuries of Islam, these displays are only a taster of the depth of this collection. We are working on a new gallery to cover this region in more depth which we are aiming to open in March 2017. In the meantime, these interim displays have been designed to give a flavour of Islamic arts and crafts and include ceramics, calligraphy and metalwork from across the region.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20816

Moon jar

Korea

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

The Korean collections are among the smallest in the museum but they are also hugely varied. Support from a number of funders has also enabled us to expand the collection specifically for this space.

This gallery features musical instruments, furniture, ceramics, calligraphy, and scholar’s implements dating from the United Silla dynasty (668-935 CE) to the present day.

Funding has come from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund
the Art Fund
the Friends of the Oriental Museum
and the Arts Council for England, via Stories of the World (part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games).

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20814

Japan gallery

Japan

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

See Edo Period wood block prints alongside cels from anime movies
vintage kimono alongside modern street fashion
centuries old ceramics alongside pieces by 20th and 21st century masters.

This gallery has been created in direct response to visitor interest in contemporary Japanese art and culture. Thanks to generous funding by the Art Fund, the Museum has been able to acquire a range of contemporary Japanese art, fashion and domestic goods that complement our historic Japanese collections.

Funding has been provided by the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and the Art Fund.

Admission

Normal museum admission applies.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20813

Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt Oriental Museum

Ancient Egyptian art and archaeology

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

This gallery has been designed to introduce younger visitors to Ancient Egypt. Displays cover those topics usually taught at school such as food and farming, building, writing and beliefs.

Labelling has been designed to help parents and teachers guide younger visitors, but there is plenty here for everyone to enjoy.

While younger visitors are playing with the toy pyramid and temple, or trying out a word search, others can enjoy looking at amulets, animal mummies, and exquisite jewellery. Then why not try out our giant game of senet, played by the ancient Egyptians?

This gallery was funded by the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20812

Marvels of china

Marvels of China

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

Laid out thematically, the gallery covers topics such as family and home, scholars, agriculture, festivals and arts and crafts.

A large activity area features dressing-up costumes and activity sheets for younger visitors as well as comfy sofas for parents and carers. Replicas of the famous terracotta warriors guard the gallery, painted to look as they would have done when they were buried.

Gallery highlights include imperial porcelain, finely carved lacquer, intricate silver jewellery and a wonderful Chinese bed - made without nails or screws.

This gallery was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Designation Development Fund.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20810

South Asia Gallery

Himalayas, India and South East Asia

  • 13 February 2015 — 1 November 2018 *on now

See highlights from our collection of Gandharan sculpture, the earliest artistic style to represent the Buddha, marvel at exquisitely fine Indian jades and enjoy objects from Burma, Brunei, Sarawak and other parts of South East Asia.

The development of this gallery is being supported by the Arts Council for England and the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.

Admission

Normal museum admission applies.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20815

Thacker Gallery of Ancient Egypt

Thacker Gallery Ancient Egypt

  • 16 June 2017 — 1 November 2018 *on now

This collection holds 'Designated Status' on the basis of its national and international importance and the newly refurbished gallery showcases this amazing collection to its full potential. Every object is a treasure and the gallery has been designed to showcase the collection with the minimum of intervention, letting the objects speak for themselves.

Statues, jewellery, a sphinx and even a seven foot high granite obelisk are all on display. The world famous ‘servant girl’ statuette is housed here. As one of the few surviving pieces of sculpture to break away from the conventions of the Egyptian artistic style, this uniquely realistic work has fascinated generations of Egyptologists and art historians.

This gallery has been completely refurbished and redesigned. Reopened on 26th February 2016 it is named after man responsible for the founding of the Oriental Museum, Professor T.W. Thacker and is home to the highlights of the Ancient Egyptian collection.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Normal museum admission applies.

Website

https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=20811

resilience within the rubble exhibition at the Oriental Museum, Durham

Resilience within the Rubble

  • 29 September 2017 — 28 January 2018

The 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal, not only caused human devastation, but was also a cultural catastrophe. It damaged and destroyed much of Nepal’s unique cultural heritage, including monuments within the UNESCO Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site.

In 2015 a Durham University led team, in partnership with UNESCO and the Department of Archaeology, Government of Nepal, undertook a season of post-disaster archaeological assessment of earthquake damaged monuments within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the nationally important and symbolic Kasthamandap. They returned to complete their work on the site in November and December 2016 with the support of the National Geographic Society and a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

This photographic exhibition will tell the story of the Kasthamandap, from its origins to its collapse to its renewal. Illustrated through archive photographic collections and the personal testimonies and photographs of first responders and Nepali heritage professionals, it will be interwoven with photographs of recent discoveries made during excavation by the Durham-led team.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • 18+
  • 16-17
  • 14-15
  • 11-13

Admission

Normal museum admission applies.

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/exhibitions/

beauty and diplomacy

Beauty and Diplomacy: the Malcolm MacDonald Collections

  • 20 October 2017 — 14 January 2018

An exhibition celebrating the diplomat Malcolm MacDonald’s friendships with world leaders, master craftsmen, antique dealers and even Borneo head-hunters. The collections resulting from these friendships are now housed at the Oriental Museum and include beautiful objects from across Southeast Asia and his collection of Chinese ceramics spanning four thousand years of history.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Where

Oriental Museum

Admission

Normal museum admission applies

Website

http://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Dragon

The Little Dragon Club

  • 20 September 2017 10-11am *on now
  • 27 September 2017 10-11am

Every Wednesday at Durham University Oriental Museum. This club is especially for children aged 0-5 years. Sessions include fun crafts, storytelling and object handling.

Suitable for

  • Especially for children
  • 0-4
  • Especially for children

Admission

£1 per child. Adults free.

Website

https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/events/littledragons/

beauty and diplomacy

Beauty, Diplomacy and Malcolm MacDonald

  • 18 October 2017 7:30-9:15pm

Lecture by Alexander Shaw, University of Leeds. This lecture is hosted by the Friends of the Oriental Museum, as part of the 2017/18 series.

‘I like beauty. I love beauty. I worship beauty in all its earthly forms’. Thus spoke Malcolm MacDonald, whose adventures as a diplomat were perhaps only equalled by his indulgence as a collector.

The son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Malcolm served as a cabinet minister in the 1930s before his first diplomatic posting to Canada. From 1948 until 1955 he was Commissioner-General for South-East Asia. An energetic and unconventional character, MacDonald was happiest escaping official life to Borneo, where he became the adopted son of renowned head-hunter Temenggong Koh. The successful diplomat was only one side of Malcolm MacDonald. The other was a passionate, discerning, but not always shrewd collector of many genres: most importantly, imperial Chinese ceramics. But art and beauty are not just about objects. In later life, Malcolm reflected that ‘one of the things one collects is people. I have made a fine collection through the last sixty years’. Personal relationships were central to his success as both an eccentric diplomat and eclectic collector. The objects in Malcolm’s collections tell of friendships with Asian royalty, communist revolutionaries, refugee antique dealers and Borneo head-hunters. By looking at these stories, it becomes clear that MacDonald’s views on art, beauty and collecting were very much part of his success as a diplomat.

This lecture is held in lecture room EH009, adjacent to the Oriental Museum. Open to all (there is a small charge for visitors).


This lecture is open to all. Lectures are free to Friends. For visitors the cost is £3 (£1 concession).

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Where

The Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidans College
Windmill Hill
Durham
DH1 3LJ

Admission

Small charge for non-members.

Website

https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/details/?id=26997

Lakshmi Puja

Diwali - special late night opening

  • 20 October 2017 6-8pm

This October come and celebrate the much loved Hindu festival of Diwali at the Oriental Museum!

Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with this special late night opening.

Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world, visitors can enjoy Diwali food tasting, Indian stories, crafts, games and traditional puja prayers to the goddess Lakshmi.

The Museum will be decorated in spectacular style with diyas, flowers and lanterns made by the community, and the first 100 children will receive a free flower garland.

Entry is £2 for adults and children aged 2 and over. Under 2s go free. No booking required.

Suitable for

  • Especially for children
  • Especially for children
  • Any age
  • Family friendly

Admission

£2 per person (under 2's free) plus free flower garland for first 100 children.

Website

https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/whatson/family/

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Life in Ancient Egypt

A schools workshop looking at life in Ancient Egypt. The children make extensive use of our galleries and handling collection to explore the subject in depth. There is also the opportunity to participate in role play and mummify some fruit.
(Group size: normally 30 but more by arrangement; Duration: 4 hours including lunch; Level: KS2)

Creator

  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections

How to obtain

For information about booking a visit, please see our website - www.dur.ac.uk/4schools/indexpages/visits.html

Marvels of China

In this schools workshop session children will have the chance to participate in a wide range of activities from exloring the symbolism in Chinese art to having a go at producing their own scrolls. Students will also have the opportunity to take part in a gallery trail, handle original artefacts and engage in fun craft activities.
(Group size: normally up to 30 but larger classes by arrangement; Duration: 2-4 hours; Level: KS2)

Creator

  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections

Treasures of the Oriental Museum, Durham University

On 30th June 2010 the Oriental Museum launched a major new publication to commemorate the Golden Jubilee. This book includes 50 short essays by curators, artists, students, researchers and collectors from the UK and around the world. Eash essay offers a different view on an object from the collections accompanied by all new colour photography of these stunning objects.

Publisher

  • TMI Group

How to obtain

Order forms can be downloaded from our website, or you can order via the Durham University Retail Office website: www.dur.ac.uk/university.shop/

Turning Japanese

This schools workshop session offers students the chance to experience a wide range of activities aimed at increading knowledge and understanding of Japanese culture. Activities include a gallery trail, making a Japanese kite, and origami. Schools can also combine this session with a visit to the nearby Botanic Garden to look at the plants that inspire Japanese art.
(Group size: noramlly one class but larger groups may be able to be accommodated; Duration: 2-4 hours; Level: KS2)

Creator

  • Durham University Museums and Special Collections

Oriental Museum
Durham University
Elvet Hill
Durham
DH1 3TH
England

Website

www.durham.ac.uk/oriental.museum

E-mail

All enquiries

oriental.museum@durham.ac.uk

Telephone

All enquiries

0191 334 5694

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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