The Oriental Museum
The Oriental Museum is the only museum in England dedicated solely to Oriental art and archaeology. It was originally set up purely as a teaching resource for the School of Oriental Studies in the late 1940's. The first substantial step was the acquisition in 1950 of the Duke of Northumberland's Collection of Egyptian antiquities. To this was added Sir Charles' Hardinge's large collection of jades and other hardstones and the Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald's extensive collection of Chinese ceramics. A number of other important gifts were made at this period and the quality of the collections was deemed sufficient to justify the construction of a purpose-built museum. This was financed by the Gulbenkian Foundation, designed by Middleton Fletcher and opened in 1960.
The Museum now has an established reputation in the world of Oriental scholarship and amongst collectors and connoisseurs. The Museum collects archaeological artefacts and examples of the arts and crafts from the whole continent of Asia, from Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East, and from the Islamic cultures of North Africa (the Maghreb but not sub-Saharan Africa) ranging from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary arts. The extensive Egyptian and Chinese collections in particular are very highly regarded and contain many pieces well-known and important to national and international scholarship. Objects have been loaned in recent years to exhibitions in this country and in the USA, France and Italy. The collections also form a well-used source of illustrations for picture researchers. Academic enquiries are received from scholars and researchers seeking information about the collections and specific and general advice about oriental art.
Within the University of Durham, the Museum offers resources for study and research. It also provides a cultural resource for all members of the University and is one of the University facilities to which local people feel they have easy access. The Museum organises a wide range of educational programmes for schools and adult groups and runs a regular series of changing exhibitions and events.Lindy Brewster | Jul 2004