Review: Durham Oriental Museum


What: Durham Oriental Museum

Where: Durham (Directions)


Price: £1.50 standard price, £0.75 under 16s and seniors, further discounts available

Okay so it’s not actually in Newcastle, but it’s less that 15 minutes train ride to Durham and it’s a very quick and easy day out for any Geordie, so stick with me!

I visited the Durham Oriental Museum in February of 2012, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the gates. I had pictured a small, pokey, building no more than a glorified large room with dusty old exhibits that only saw any real activity in fresher’s week, when tours of hung-over students were dragged through its 12 foot of display space. I was pleasantly surprised then when I turned up and was met with a large and colourful museum set across multiple floors and containing a plethora of interesting exhibits.

Despite the usage of the word ‘oriental’ in the museums title, some consider this to be rather ‘old hat’ and some say offensive, the museum itself is a thoroughly modern experience. Encompassing exhibits from Japan, China, Korea, Central Asia, India, South Asia, South East Asia and, bizarrely, Egypt there is certainly a large range of exhibits, and I have to say that time somewhat escaped me while I was in there!

The exhibits themselves are largely engaging and there is very little dry information to be found here, there are also special exhibitions contained within the building which special effort has been put into. At the time I visited there was an special exhibition on the origins of Manga which included some rather x-rated pictures (it’s still kid friendly, they were all covered from young people’s reach). Now a modern Manga exhibition is entertaining the space. It has to be said that the museum is not for everyone, if you skimmed through this article and picked up on the word ‘Manga’ and nothing more, you would be disappointed as the museums main slant is on historical artefacts – fortunately these artifacts are great!

The permanent exhibits are rather dominated by the Chinese and Egyptian collections; this is not a slight as these are great in themselves but of course the Japanese collection will be of special interest to anyone reading this article. Sadly the Japanese collection is rather lacking currently, there are some very nice pieces including swords and Shinto paraphernalia, but compared to the aforementioned collections it can’t help but feel dwarfed by them, and the same and be said for the Korean display. Fortunately for the museum it has recently been granted funding to expand the museum and to obtain new pieces for the Japanese and Korean collection, how convenient.

If you are planning a trip to Durham then the Durham Oriental Museum is a must for anyone with an interest. You can waste several hours inside and for £1.50 you can’t complain, you even get in free if you are in higher education!!! One problem is that it is rather a chore to get to via foot (well the way I went anyway!) so a smart phone with GPS is recommended so you don’t waste a trip! There is a gift shop, café, toilet facilities and lockers on sites, the staff were very friendly and provided a free map to the museum.


  • Can’t be beaten for price
  • Fantastic exhibitions
  • Expanding in the future


  • Hard to navigate to via foot
  • Small Japanese collection
  • Not in Toon

One comment on “Review: Durham Oriental Museum

  1. Pingback: Report on Durham Museum Break-In | Geordie Japan

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