Open Treasure is transforming public access to some of the Cathedral’s most spectacular spaces, opening up the previously hidden monastic buildings and allowing people to get closer to the Cathedral’s breath-taking collections.
We’re also opening up hearts and minds through the Open Treasure Learning and Outreach programme, enabling members of the local community to get involved in this exciting new chapter of the Cathedral’s story.
One of our most exciting projects is Young Curators, a brand new group for 11 – 16 year olds. Young Curators will have unique opportunities to explore the new exhibition areas, handle and display objects, interpret the collections and help develop a new guide book based on their experiences.
We’ve recruited a great group of Young Curators from across County Durham, and we’ve met three times since September. So far, our Young Curators have explored the Cathedral, enjoyed a special show-and-tell session in the Cathedral Library and started to pull together ideas for their own guidebook.
In their latest session, our Young Curators even got the opportunity to meet local artist Mick Stevenson who designed Litre of Light, one of the most popular installations at Lumiere Durham 2015, the UK’s largest light festival.
It’s really rewarding to see our Young Curators immersing themselves in the history and heritage of the Cathedral and learning as they go. And we’ve learnt so much from our Young Curators too! By questioning our own understanding of the Cathedral and its remarkable stories the Young Curators have opened up our minds, teaching us to see the Cathedral in a new light.
Our sessions with the Young Curators have highlighted the fact that Durham Cathedral itself is an Open Treasure with countless opportunities for learning and exploration, and we can’t wait to learn more over the next few months.
Learning and Outreach Officer
The Open Treasure project at Durham Cathedral is opening up a new exhibition route through some of the Cathedral’s remarkable historic spaces.
A major part of the project is the transformation of the fourteenth-century Monks’ Dormitory. Many visitors will be familiar with the room, which has been used as a library since the 1840s. It has a spectacular oak-beamed ceiling and is lined with wooden bookcases built from English oak.
One of the big jobs for me and the Cathedral’s other two joiners has been the creation of doors for the bookcases. These will keep the books safe and allow us to continue using the room as a working library once it is opened as an exhibition space.
We had to make over eighty doors in total and because the bookcases were originally handmade, no two doors are the same. Each bookcase is slightly different from the next in shape and size, and even within each case the left and right doors are not perfectly symmetrical. This meant that for every door we had to carefully measure the case and create a plywood template. Then we used the template to cut the door from European oak before attaching a metal grill and a lock mechanism. We started this daunting task in February and it is impossible to say exactly how many hours it has taken us, but it has definitely been an extremely time-consuming job!
At the moment we are busy hanging the doors so that the polisher can come and varnish them. Each of the bookcases is a subtly different colour thanks to the way the sunlight has faded them over the centuries, so he can’t pick the right shade until they are in position.
The beauty of our job as joiners at the Cathedral is that we do such a variety of tasks – and these doors definitely provided us with a new challenge. I must confess that by door number fifty we were sick of the sight of them, but now we can’t wait to have them all hung and polished. It will definitely feel good to get the job done and to see people enjoying the new exhibition space.
Tony Swallow, Joiner