Norman Cornish: The Sketchbooks was an exhibition held at Palace Green Library from 23 November 2019 – 1 March 2020, forming part of the programme to mark the centenary of the birth of the celebrated County Durham artist. Colleagues from the Museums, Galleries and Exhibitions team worked closely with the Cornish family to present a selection of around 60 of the artist’s little-seen sketchbooks, along with carefully chosen finished paintings to provide a rich insight into Cornish’s working practice and development as an artist. The exhibition was designed to offer an intimate look at Cornish’s life and work, touching on his career as a miner, how his family encouraged and inspired his art and the many subjects for drawing and painting provided by the community of his home town of Spennymoor.
In a pre-coronavirus world, we at the Learning and Engagement Team spent our days engaging school children; families; community groups and those with access requirements to enjoy and use the truly amazing collections of Durham University. We were able to work with all walks of life in amazing buildings – with equally amazing collections – Durham Castle, Palace Green Library and the Oriental Museum and hopefully, raise aspirations for young people in our region to go to university and have as much fun with researching collections as we do.
As the days shorten and the cold winter nights are drawing in, Hindus over the world celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Light. For several years we have worked closely with the local Indian community to host celebrations at the Oriental Museum.
In 2019 around 350 people, including local families, international and home students, and members of staff came together to mark the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. People enjoyed delicious Indian food prepared by local chef, a shadow puppet performance of the story of Prince Rama and Princess Sita, and art activities.
Encouraging new students to visit the library during induction week can be a tricky business. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in a week where they are not only having the academic aspect of their next 3 or 4 years mapped out to them, are being invited to join team, clubs and societies and indulge in half price pizzas and 2-for-1 “quaddy voddies”, new students might find that ‘pop into the library to have a look around and to pick a pencil and a book-shaped eraser’ slips quite far down their agenda.
Although we’re not strictly competing for attention with University Cheese Society or “slammer’s night” at the local champagne bar, it is important to get students into the library early on in their university lives so that we can:
- Remove any worry, fear or trepidation about the library – after all, it will likely be on a scale much greater than students have experienced to that point
- Highlight what we have to offer
- Put a ‘human face’ on the service