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IMEMS Sponsored Research on Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

In line with our Durham World Heritage Site Research Framework, IMEMS encourages and sponsors research into Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site through our portfolio of workshops and events, Fellowships, and Seedcorn Funding.

Durham University’s projects within the World Heritage Site include the following:


Scottish Soldiers

New light has been shed on a centuries-old mystery surrounding the last resting place of Scottish soldiers who died after being captured and imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle during the 17th Century civil wars. Archaeologists at Durham University carried out scientific analysis on skeletons discovered in two mass graves on Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site in November 2013. Combining this data with information from the excavation and historical records, the researchers concluded that 'the only plausible' explanation was that the skeletons were those of Scottish soldiers captured by English forces following the Battle of Dunbar in September 1650 and taken to Durham on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.


Medieval Graffiti in the Prior’s Chapel, Durham Priory

In 1979 a late 15th-century wall painting was uncovered on the north wall of the Deanery at Durham, the hallway of the present Deanery. Sandwiched between the remains of this painting, and earlier 13th-century paintwork, is a mass of intersecting and varied medieval graffiti. On the request of the Dean of Durham Cathedral, a project to record, catalogue and interpret these graffiti was initiated in 2010. Initial research into the range of motifs and personal names, in conjunction with documentary and archaeological research into the function and development of the prior’s chapel, has expanded our understanding of the role of the chapel in the prior’s household and monastic community life.


Durham Priory Library Recreated

Durham possesses the finest collection of medieval manuscripts of any English cathedral. Durham University, in partnership with Durham Cathedral, is undertaking an ambitious project to digitise the original Priory Library of Durham Cathedral. This initiative is making the best-preserved, best-catalogued Benedictine library in the UK and Ireland available globally for research, learning and teaching.

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Mind the Gap: addressing the evidence-gap in evaluating the social and economic contribution of heritage sites

Heritage-related projects are often defined as having a wide range of social and economic impacts including on economic and employment opportunities, on education, civic pride, identity building and sense of place, capacity-building, community building, health and wellbeing, etc., at different local, regional and national levels. In the Northeast, local heritage has been increasingly at the centre of regeneration projects for former industrial towns and areas. However, the understanding of the nature of the social and economic impacts of these heritage projects and their measurement remains limited. This project will organise a one-day workshop to address the current evidence-gap and initiate pathways to approach common monitoring and evaluation.

We have also begun to coordinate and post a list of Placement Reports and Dissertations focused on the World Heritage Site. If you are aware of additional undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations or placement reports which are not listed, please do email us on r.a.e.coningham@durham.ac.uk and we will update the list.