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GO Museums in Durham

Museums in Durham From old medals and gold coins to Japanese antiques and religious artefacts, Durham’s museums are packed with displays of local, national and international history.

There’s the Durham University Museum of Archaeology [map] in the Old Fulling Mill, which is home to archaeological displays from excavations in and around the city of Durham. Situated on the banks of the River Wear below the historic Durham Cathedral, you will uncover a lot about Durham illustrious past, like when the Anglo-Saxon monks came to Durham with the body of St Cuthbert and how the castle was constructed. The majority of the archaeological material in the museum is from North East England, but there are also relics from the Swiss Lakes, Greece and Rome.

The Durham Light Infantry Museum [map] traces the proud history of the county’s regiment. Here’s you’ll discover a superb collection of more than 3,000 medals awarded to more than 1,000 men, who served in one of the finest County Regiments – The Durham Light Infantry. Some of the medals date back 200 years when the regiment fought in the Peninsular War against Napoleon, while others are from the last campaign in Borneo in 1966. Along with medals there are many other artefacts on display, such as uniforms, regimental record books and a memorial book, which you can write in.

For a taste of Far Eastern history head to the Oriental Museum [map] off South Road, the only museum in the UK devoted to art and archaeology from cultures throughout the Orient. The collections range from prehistoric Egypt and China to the work of living artists in Japan and Korea. The museum is part of the University of Durham, which uses it as a teaching and research resource.

Situated in a 17th century church in the city centre, Durham Heritage Centre and Museum [map] is Durham's only local history museum telling the story of the city from Medieval times to the 20th century. Exhibits here include the ‘Death Chair’ that was used to take sick boys from Durham School to the Infirmary, a cell from Durham Jail and displays on the pilgrimage to the shrine of St Cuthbert.

During your visit to Durham Cathedral take a peek in the Treasury Museum [map], which is one of the most important museums in the north of England. It contains many relics of the Golden Age of Northumbria, including the 7th century wooden coffin of St Cuthbert and the Pectoral Cross of St Cuthbert. There are also some impressive silver plates that belonged to the Prince Bishops of Durham.

If you get the chance to venture outside the city’s boundaries during your stay in Durham then make sure you pay a visit to the famous Beamish Open Air Museum [map]. This is a living, breathing, working museum that makes a great day out for all the family. Here, parts of north-eastern life have been reconstructed to look like they would have looked in the 19th and early 20th centuries. You can go underground and explore the mines, or see what life was like on a working farm, take a lesson in an old schoolroom, and even sit in the dentist’s chair.

Beamish is located about eight miles North West of Durham and is signposted from the A1 (M). You should probably allow at least two hours to do the place justice.

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