Visitors to Open Treasure will embark on a journey through some of the most beautiful and well-preserved monastic spaces in the country, as the story of Durham Cathedral and its incredible collections are revealed.
This £10 million development project within one of the world’s best-loved Cathedrals has been supported by donations from many individuals and organisations, including a grant of £3.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
This state-of-the-art exhibition experience has been three years in the making and will take visitors from the Cloister, up into the Monks’ Dormitory, out into a newly created Collections Gallery, down into the Great Kitchen, through the Pilgrimage and Community Galleries, returning to the Cloister.
Among the permanent exhibits are an extensive collection of Anglo-Saxon and Roman stones and casts, including the impressive, towering crosses that loom high over visitors’ heads as they enter the Monks’ Dormitory. A timeline runs the length of the dormitory, telling the story of the Cathedral’s history and beautiful brass pieces replicate elements of monastic life including the beautiful books and tools used by the monks. A large glass exhibit recreates a monk’s cell, showing the small spaces in which the monks slept and studied and another will show the development of a brand new cope with panels depicting scenes from Cuthbert’s life, commissioned for the exhibition and produced by the Cathedral’s own Borderers and volunteers.
As well as things to see, Open Treasure is designed to be an interactive experience suitable for all ages. Visitors can listen to the magnificent sounds of the Cathedral’s Harrison & Harrison organ, from a set of replica pipes that play out music, which has been recorded by the Cathedral’s Master of the Choristers and Organist, Dr James Lancelot and the Cathedral Choir. Or take a seat in the recreated choir stalls and listen to monastic choral music, finding out how the two sides of the choir become one sound. Young visitors will enjoy retracing the markings of the Anglo-Saxon stones with sliding jigsaw tiles while others can transport themselves back in time with the smell-boxes that include scents of leather, beeswax, kitchen spices and tallow. And an interactive map will allow visitors to leave comments about their experience and place a virtual pin on the map to mark their visit.
Sitting under the magnificent vaulted octagonal ceiling of the Great Kitchen will be a series of glass cases, which will eventually house the Treasures of St Cuthbert including fragments of his wooden coffin and his Pectoral Cross. These precious Anglo-Saxon treasures will go into the exhibition in around one year’s time, following a period of monitoring to ensure the bespoke exhibition cases are maintaining the correct environment such precious objects require. Ahead of this, a display of stunning metalwork will be mounted including elaborately decorated altar crosses, archaeological finds of medieval metal and objects associated with the Prince Bishops.
In the Collections Gallery, a rolling programme of exhibitions from Durham Cathedral’s own collections will be complemented by exhibitions and displays of collections and artefacts from other prestigious institutions. Meanwhile in the Community Gallery, a changing exhibition will showcase the work of the many community groups, schools and outreach projects that are part of the Cathedral’s Learning and Education programme, demonstrating how the Cathedral remains at the heart of the local and regional community.
The doors of Durham Cathedral’s much anticipated new exhibition experience, Open Treasure, will be unlocked on Saturday 23 July 2016.