Exploring our libraries and collections

The libraries & collections in and around Durham provide rich resources for research across a wide range of disciplines.

There are particularly extensive and significant materials relevant for subjects such as theology and religion, politics, music, the history of the book, visual and performance culture and ritual, world cultures, and the history of the north east. As well as these areas there are also sources for the study of natural sciences, mathematics, art history, architecture, geography and exploration, literature, philosophy, continental history, and the history of education.


Using the libraries

Durham University

Durham University is home to extensive and significant museum, art, archives and rare book collections.  These include four collections designated by the Arts Council as being of outstanding significance: the Chinese and Egyptian collections at the Oriental Museum, the Sudan Archive and Cosin’s Library.

The Oriental Museum

The museum has over 40,000 artworks and artefacts from African and Asian cultures, including exceptionally significant Ancient Egyptian and Chines collections granted special Designated Status

The Museum of Archaeolgoy

The museum's collection of over 40,000 items largely focuses on North East England archaeology but also holds national and international artefacts, much excavated by Durham University, with detailed archives.

The Castle Museum

As part of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage site, the museum holds around 5,000 items, with collections relating to the history of Durham Castle, the Prince Bishops, and University College, as well as oil paintings, tapestries, arms and armour, silver, crockery and furniture.

University Collection of Western Art

The University collection of Western art presents work by some of the most significant artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and specialises in print-based media.  The variety of print-based artworks makes the collection an invaluable resource for investigating different printing techniques, from early methods of woodcut printing to more contemporary screen and digital printing techniques. The idea of the multiple print as a primary artwork is one that is often contested or misinterpreted. The collection is a unique resource in considering this idea and in investigating the different means of printing and their status.

Biosciences Collections

Durham University holds a small but significant collection of natural specimens, amounting to around 9,000 items.  The collection includes skeletal material, antler heads, taxidermy, entomology, oology, a spirit collection and an herbarium. This collection contains items from around the world and also tells important narratives about the history of flora and fauna in the north-east.

Palace Green Library

The library holds over 70,000 pre-1850 volumes including 300 incunables, 100+ medieval manuscripts, 3,400 metres of archives and artefacts, 30,000+ maps & prints, and 100,000 photogaphs, plus the Cosin, Bamburgh & Routh family libraries of significant historical interest.

Durham Cathedral Collections

Durham Cathedral’s archives are one of the most complete and extensive monastic archives surviving in Britain.  Dating back to the 11th century the archives are especially significant for researching the medieval and the post-dissolution social and economic history of northeast England.   The Cathedral also has an exceptional collection of over 300 medieval manuscript books, the earliest of which travelled from Lindisfarne with Saint Cuthbert.  The archives and manuscripts are cared for and made available by Durham University Library.

The Cathedral’s historic Refectory Library is home to 30,000 early printed books on theology, natural history, philosophy, travel and much more.  There are extensive collections of music in manuscript and print and antiquarian collections on the history of North- East England.

Durham Cathedral Museum is home to the treasures of Saint Cuthbert, including textiles, his coffin and the pectoral cross.  It also houses part of our exceptional collection of early medieval stone sculptures.  The Cathedral’s object collections include paintings, church metalwork, vestments, furniture and woodwork, stained glass and archaeological remains.

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens

Ushaw is home to internationally significant collections of archives, rare books, art and artefacts.

The library encompasses 30,000 early printed books, incunabula, pamphlet material and printed ephemera, dating from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century, and particularly rich in theological subjects.

Ushaw’s significant archive collections relate to the 200-year history of the College, as well as early modern Catholicism and the revival of the Catholic Church in Britain during the nineteenth century. These collections include papers from some of the most important figures in the English Catholic Church. 

Fine art and artefact collections include paintings,
sculpture, church plate, textiles and relics.