Visit to Durham Libraries

On Monday, I had a hellish journey up to Durham to visit Prof. Richard Gameson who I introduced to when he gave a talk at Morley Medieval Society. If you’ve not been to Durham, you should seriously consider it, it is beautiful!

Durham’s Castle and Cathedral, atop the peninsula.

I found my way to Richard’s office, after being delayed for 2 hours at Kings Cross, and we immediately went for lunch on palace green in the Cafe inside the medieval alms houses, which was very welcome! He then took me to meet the head librarian at the Cathedral, which is not part of the University, but used by students as a quiet revision place as well as for reference. Gabriel Sewell previously was the head librarian at Lambeth so we had plenty to talk about, amongst other things! She mentioned a large plan to extend the large reading room which also houses a small collection of stonework and other large object related to the Cathedral’s history. (Funfact – the 11th Century Cathedral was used as a film location for Harry Potter, the cloisters were used as parts of Hogwarts!).

We then went over the green to the Palace Green Library where we were met by conservator Emma Lloyd-Jones, who showed me around the building. Because of their recent and very lucrative agreement with the BL on securing a 50% share of the St Cuthbert Gospel, a new exhibition showcasing the Gospel along with the Lindisfarne Gospel which has been lent to Durham for 3 months is going to be taking place in 2013.  A large project focussing on the restoration and refurbishment of the Palace Green Library is underway; the programme addresses key issues of conservation, security and accessibilty. The project includes the restoration of Bishop Cosin’s library which has been empty of books for about 16 years, and whilst I was there I met the head conservator Liz Branigan, who was overseeing the return of the books to the shelves. They are also getting a new conservation studio, with new equipment which is due to be finished in July this year. In the space which the old conservation studio occupied, a new exhibition space especially for the 2 gospels has been created, adjacent to the new studio, giving good emergency access to the items on display.

It was all a bit frantic, but I enjoyed seeing behind the scenes at the Library, and seeing the plans for the new studio, and am much appreciative to Gabriel, Liz, Emma, Felicity and Rob and of course Richard. I of course, will be returning for the exhibition if not before!

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