Skip to Main Content Page Title
Library logo

Museums, Galleries and Exhibitions: Oriental Museum Collections

Ask Us

Ask Us

You can get in touch through our live chat service or by email, and search our FAQs for answers to your questions.

Ask us anything about Library and Collections

Oriental Museum Collections

The Oriental Museum is home to more than 40,000 objects drawn mainly from the cultures of North Africa and Asia, with small numbers of objects from the Pacific region, sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas. The collections range in date from prehistory to the present day, encompassing a wide range of material from ancient archaeology to contemporary art.    

The museum’s founding collections were created to support teaching in the School of Oriental Studies in Durham from the late 1940s onwards. The current museum building opened to the public in 1960 and was originally named The Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art and Archaeology.    

The museum is often simply referred to as ‘The Gulbenkian Museum, Durham’ in academic literature from the 1960s and 70s. The name was shortened to its current form in the 1980s.    

Our outstanding Chinese and ancient Egyptian collections were granted elite “Designated Collection” status in 2008 in recognition of their national and international significance.  

Collection strengths include:   

  • Ceramics from China, Japan and across Asia  
  • Carved jades and hardstones from China and India  
  • Egyptian archaeology   
  • Prints, paintings, posters and other works on paper    
  • Early photography from South Asia, Japan and China   
  • Textiles and costume  
  • Arms and armour  
  • World faiths  
  • Calligraphy  
  • Lacquerware  
  • Furniture   

If you would like to find out more about the collection, visit