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Gemma Lewis, BA (Hons), MA 

Curator of Archaeology and Bioscience 

Telephone: +44(0)191 334 4038 



Gemma is the Curator of Archaeology and Bioscience collections within the Durham University’s Museum, Galleries and Exhibitions Team. She is an experienced curator and is responsible for the care, development and interpretation of the collections to enable academic research and access for local, national and international audiences. 


Gemma has held multiple roles in the north-east, including Documentation Assistant, Curatorial Assistant, and Assistant Archaeology Officer. She moved to Preston Park Museum in 2008 and worked as a Collections Rationalisation Worker and was a key member of one of the first collections review and rationalisation projects in the country. She then became the Collections Officer and was involved in the £7 million Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment of the Museum which has become a significant local attraction. Her role focused on the redisplays and new collection store.   

Gemma joined the team in 2013 as the Curator of Durham Castle and the Museum of Archaeology. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to develop the interpretation and public access to the collections. This has included re-developing the Museum of Archaeology visitor experience through new galleries at Palace Green Library, as well as securing £67,000 of external funding to develop the Tunstall Gallery at Durham Castle. This funding enabled the installation of conservation measures and display cases in the Grade I listed building and allowed for more historical collections to be displayed. She also developed and professionalised the Durham Castle Tour offer.  

She has also been involved in collections management and development working with local and regional organisations, communities and individuals. This has enabled the acquisition of a number of significant objects for the Museum of Archaeology, such as the Lanchester Diploma, Gilmonby Bronze Age Hoards, Piercebridge River Assemblage and very recently the River Wear Assemblage. Collectively, these enable the history of the region to be further explored and discovered by communities.  

In 2022, her role changed to Curator of Archaeology and Bioscience. In this new role, she has begun to focus on the development of both collections and their potential for co-curation, engagement, and research.  

Gemma is a graduate of Durham University and holds an MA Museum and Artefact Students and BA Archaeology. 

Gemma is also heavily involved in the development and delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research at Durham University, working on courses and supervising student research across a range of subject areas including archaeology, museum studies, history, visual arts and culture.  

Research Interests

  • Approaches to Collections Reviews, Rationalisation and Disposal in museums 
  • Variables in creating effective museum displays
  • History of collecting
  • Archaeology in Museums

Selected Exhibitions

  • Co-curated the exhibition, Hidden Stories from the River Wear, with underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead (2023) 
  • Co-Curated the exhibition, Tunstall and the Tudors: The Calculating Bishop, working with other MGE colleagues, and the Department of Mathematical Sciences Durham University (2022)
  • Collaborated on the exhibition and project, Women of Castle, working with artist Bex Harvey to explore the intangible and tangible contributions of women to Durham Castle, funded by University College Durham Trust (2019-2021)
  • Curated the exhibition, Everyone’s History, celebrating 20 years of the Portable Antiquities Scheme featuring archaeology discovered by metal detectorists and members of the public (2017)
  • Collaborated on the project, Vital Signs, created by the artist Jo Coupe and percussionist Brendan Murphy, funded through Meeting Point project (2017)
  • Facilitated the exhibition, Trypillia Mega-Sites: An International Exhibition, produced by the Durham – Kyiv – Kirovograd Project (2016)
  • Collaborated on the exhibition, Public and Private, created by the artists Michele Allen commissioned by University College and the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures, Durham University (2016)
  • Collaborated on the exhibition, Continuous Material, created by the artists  Wright and Sam Watson and commissioned by University College and the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures, Durham University (2015)
  • Facilitated the exhibition, The Liveliest of Elements, and Ordinary Extraordinary Material, by the artist Laura Harrington (2015)
  • Curated the exhibition, Beneath our Feet, to explore community archaeology in County Durham (2015) 

Permanent Gallery Development

  • Project Managed the moving and redisplay of an Irish Elk in the Biosciences Department (2022) 
  • Co-Curated and project managed the creation of the Roman and Prehistory Gallery at Palace Green Library (2021) 
  • Curated and project managed the upgrade to the Tunstall Gallery, Durham Castle to improve interpretation, security and environmental conditions (2018) 
  • Curated the Living on the Hill Gallery at Palace Green Library (2014)

Awards Granted

  • Museum Development Programme Recovery and Development Grant (2023/24)-£3,968, development of a sensitive collections store.
  • Museum Development Programme Recovery and Development Grant (2022/23)-£9,199 installation of environmental monitoring system and improved access to the coin and trade token collection. 
  • Museum Development Programme Recovery and Development Grant (2021/22)-£7,686 creation of two collections stores at Durham Castle. 
  • Museum Development Programme Recovery and Development Grant (2020/21)-£17,539 improved digital access to Durham Castle through 3d scanning, an audio guide and reconstruction art, improvements to the interpretation of the Museum of Archaeology.
  • DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund (2016-18)-£67,000 creation of a permanent gallery at Durham Castle and preventative conservation methods. 
  • Durham University Carbon Management (2016) - £9,917 Replacement of display case internal lighting.