The long-awaited opening of a new gallery in Durham University’s Oriental Museum will take place in February.
Friday the 13th of February, to be exact, which offers an indication of how confident everyone is about the new addition to the museum, which will be devoted to the its Himalayan, Indian and Southeast Asian collections.
Occupying a whole floor, the completely refurbished gallery will feature a dazzling array of objects from a Tibetan Buddhist skull cup to exquisitely carved Indian jades and a headhunting sword from Borneo.
The objects on display will range in date from ancient Indus valley ceramics dating back to 2,500 BC to a 1960s safety helmet decorated with Islamic motifs by its owner in Indonesia.
The creation of the gallery follows 18 months intensive research into the museum’s collections.
Curators at the museum have re-examined thousands of objects and re-evaluated their importance with the assistance of members of local South Asian and Southeast Asian communities in Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Middleborough.
Museum curator, Craig Barclay says: “One of the most exciting aspects of this project has been the opportunity to work with local people with South Asian or Southeast Asian heritage to improve our understanding of the objects in our care that relate to their cultures and faiths.
“We are particularly grateful to members of the local Sikh and Hindu communities who have given so much of their time and even donated objects to the collection for the new displays. We have also benefited from the input of Durham University students from right across South and Southeast Asia and university academics working in the region.”
The gallery has been named the Roberts Gallery in honour of Dr and Mrs J T Roberts from Northumberland who donated a significant collection of 20th century Southeast Asian art to the museum in the 1990s.
A number of pieces from this collection will also feature in the new space.
The refurbishment of the gallery has been made possible with the generous support of Arts Council England and the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund.
The Oriental Museum is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and noon to 5pm at weekends and on bank holidays. Entry to the museum is £1.50 for adults, 75p for children (5-16) and over 60s, and free for children under five and students. The Roberts Gallery of the Himalayas, South Asia and Southeast Asia opens to the public on Friday February 13. For more details visit www.durham.ac.uk/oriental.museum or phone 0191 334 5694.