Friday, May 15, 2015

Durham Old Town and Oriental Museum

Tower of Castle of Durham, Photo by Mary M Payne

After the Cathedral I decide against seeing the Castle opposite which is open to the public....  only a few rooms and not the tower, though.  

Never mind, I don't need to see every monument and I do want a cup of tea.    I pop into a tiny tea shop  to write in my "cahier".

Love the milk jug and clever teapot with cup

After a few minutes, I decide to get a lunch with my tea and order a tuna melt that comes with coleslaw and chips. 

 Its ok but the coleslaw is swimming in mayonnaise.  The cafe has  a nice atmosphere and I have my eye on a cupcake for dessert.

  I order a red velvet.    I haven't had an American style cupcake for about 10 years at least.  But this cupcake is not great .. so I eat a bit and leave the rest.  I will get my sugar rush elsewhere or tomorrow.  I seldom eat desserts so when I do , they have to be delectable.  And I'm on holiday for heaven's sake.  I am going to indulge. 

 I wander out to see the town.

Market Square , Durham,  Photo by Mary M Payne

The Market Square is nice so I dawdle there for a few minutes and see that the town is full of  the familiar chain stores ...not many original boutiques.  There are a Waterstones Books,  a cheap version of W. H. Smiths without the books,  Boots Chemist,  Tesco's , Greggs pastries.   etc. etc.   

The shops are uninspired but the stroll is new.   I buy a pen at Smiths,  3 pounds sterling for a nice ballpoint but not the top of the line.  Things are pricey , I see. 

Market Square, Durham   Photo by Mary M Payne

But look how clean everything is , it is an agreeable little town.    I go into Waterstones to browse English books... 

River Wear Butterfly Photo by Mary M Payne

then I  take one of the footpaths along the river to go see the Oriental Art Museum of Durham University.   This is the best if not only Oriental Museum in the Northeast and I find out it has a fabulous collection.     
I see some examples of every Asian country represented in this small but beautifully presented museum. 

  I find out that the Egyptians buried small mummies of snakes to ward off evil going into the next world.  I find out that as the Chinese venerate jade, they made jade "armor", knee pads, breast plates and the like.... of jade to cover their dead for burial.  
My favorite few minutes was spent on a video of the way the Chinese make ceramics in the ancient style:   hand thrown in a kiln of bricks made the same way they have always done and hand painted.  All the artisans are ancient, very old men in this video except the young male and female painters.  What does that tell you about a disappearing art form? 

Here is a little info from the site of Durham University Oriental Museum.
"There almost 7,000 objects in the Oriental Museum's 

Ancient Egyptian collections, ranging in date from the Pre-

Dynastic (5500-3100 BCE) to the Coptic periods (after 395 

CE) and covering almost all categories of object from 

monumental sculpture to woven sandals. 
The core of the collection was formed by Algernon Percy, the Fourth Duke of Northumberland (1792-1865) in the mid-nineteenth century. The Duke had developed a fascination for Egypt following his visit to the country in 1826 and in later years he developed large collections of both British and Egyptian antiquities, which he proudly displayed at the family seat of Alnwick Castle. 
The Duke’s collection of over 2,500 objects was largely purchased via English auctions rather than during his travels in Egypt and included material originally acquired by James Burton and by the British Consul, Henry Salt. It was fully published in 1880 in a lavish volume written by Samuel Birch and illustrated by Joseph Bonomi and it remained on display at Alnwick well into the twentieth century, prior to being removed to the British Museum for conservation shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In the 1940s the decision was taken to sell the collection. Both the British Museum and the Brooklyn Museum expressed an interest in acquiring all or part of the collection, but the Duke’s successors were keen that the collection should remain intact and - if possible - in the North East of England. Happily, Durham University had also indicated its desire to obtain the collection and, thanks to the generous assistance of Dr and Mrs H N Spalding, was able to raise the £12,000 asking price. 
In 1971 the University’s holdings of Egyptian artifacts was substantially enlarged by the acquisition of part of the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome.   Wellcome, a founding partner of the well-known drug company, amassed one of the largest private collections ever made in the fields of archaeology, anthropology and the history of human health. After his death in 1936, it took more than 50 years for his Trustees to distribute the collection among museums and libraries across the UK. The Oriental Museum was fortunate to receive a collection of around 4,000 Egyptian artefacts. This material greatly strengthened the museum’s holdings of amulets, stone tools and other Pre-Dynastic objects. "

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