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:


Opening hours

Normal 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


  • 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.
Japan gallery


  • 1 November 2014 — 31 December 2021 *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.


Normal museum admission applies.



South Asia Gallery

Himalayas, India and South East Asia

  • 13 February 2019 — 31 December 2021 *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 was supported by the Arts Council for England and the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.


Normal museum admission applies.



Thacker Gallery of Ancient Egypt

Thacker Gallery Ancient Egypt

  • 16 June 2019 — 31 December 2021 *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


Normal museum admission applies.



Macdonald gallery

China in the MacDonald Gallery

  • 1 November 2019 — 31 December 2021 *on now

Our China gallery is named after the distinguished politician and diplomat the Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald.

MacDonald was a passionate collector of Chinese ceramics. His dream was to create a chronological display of the development of this most Chinese of art forms. The backbone of this gallery is dedicated to fulfilling this dream. It is a timeline of Chinese ceramic art from the Neolithic pots made and decorated by Stone Age artists through to the works of some of the most celebrated makers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The gallery also includes highlights from across the rest of our incredible Chinese collections, ranging from ancient bronze weapons to magnificent jades carved for the Emperor and his court.

Don’t miss:

- Tang dynasty tomb models of farmyard animals

- Ancient bronze and jade items created for burial with the dead

- A Song dynasty Dingware wedding bowl decorated with mandarin ducks

- A porcelain shufu cup - one of the earliest types of ceramic created on the orders of the imperial court

- The astronomical clock - the only other example of this type of clock is in the Forbidden City in Beijing

- Jades carved in the imperial workshops of the Qing dynasty.

The Oriental Museum’s Chinese collections have been granted Designated Collection status in recognition of their national and international importance.

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


Normal museum admission applies



Moon jar


  • 1 November 2019 — 31 December 2021 *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:
- 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).



Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt Oriental Museum

Ancient Egyptian art and archaeology

  • 1 November 2019 — 31 December 2021 *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.



silk roads gallery

Silk Roads

  • 28 October 2020 — 1 September 2021 *on now

This major new gallery will open early 2021, transforming the ground floor of the Oriental Museum.

Silk Roads will be an introductory gallery for the whole museum, bringing together works from across our collections to tell stories of trade, travel and exchange across the continent of Asia and into Europe, all the way to Durham.

Silk, ceramics and spices have travelled these trade routes for centuries. At the same time people have exchanged knowledge, learned about other faiths and been influenced by new artistic styles.

The new gallery will feature visitor favourites such as our magnificent Chinese bed alongside objects never seen before.

Date of opening is to be confirmed.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Normal museum admission will apply.



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.
Set up of camera equipment in the Egypt Gallery

Online Taught Sessions


The Collections Outreach Team deliver taught sessions across all our venues (the Oriental Museum, Durham Castle, Museum of Archaeology, the Botanic Gardens, the Bill Bryson Library and Archives and Special Collections) to all age groups.

We can currently offer digital sessions using a system of your choosing.

Our digital sessions cost:

KS1 sessions are one hour long for a morning or afternoon slot and cost £35 per class.

KS2 sessions are two hours long for a morning or afternoon slot and cost £45 per class.

How to obtain

Click on the link to find out more.

Malcolm MacDonald standing in front of a train waving a hat.

The Pleasures and Pains of Collecting


To mark the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of the Malcolm Macdonald collection of Chinese ceramics, the Oriental Museum has launched a book charting the fascinating life of politician, diplomat, collector and former Durham University Chancellor, Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald. (2018)

Image courtesy of Dr Victoria Bagshaw.

How to obtain

You can order via the Durham University Retail Office website: www.dur.ac.uk/university.shop/

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.


  • 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/

Oriental Museum
Durham University
Elvet Hill




All enquiries



All enquiries

0191 334 5691

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.