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Gillian Ramsay MA (Hons), MSc, MLitt   

Assistant Curator (Oriental Museum) 

Telephone: +44 (0)191 3345886 



Gillian Ramsay is the Assistant Curator of the Oriental Museum with over 10 years of experience in the museums and heritage sector.   


Gillian began her career working as an osteoarchaeologist in the commercial archaeology sector before taking on a number of curatorial and collections roles for a range of organisations including National Museums Scotland where she held the position of Assistant Curator for the Ancient Mediterranean, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.  In 2015 Gillian was part of a small team which developed a large-scale collections review procedure for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) which was subsequently rolled out across all 88 NTS properties under the title ‘Project Reveal’.  

Since joining the Oriental Museum in 2016 Gillian has played an active role in developing partnerships for Durham University Internationally. For example, building on her work delivering an exhibition at the University of Malaya and museology workshop at the National Museum of Malaysia (Muzium Negara) she has taken the lead on a collaborative project involving the University of Malaya and the National University of Singapore, which became a primary strand of the MOU with the University of Malaya signed in 2022.  

In recent years Gillian has taken the lead on the Oriental Museum exhibitions and art installations programme working in collaboration with academics, artists, students and communities to deliver an engaging, varied and accessible programme.     

She is actively involved in collections development, having secured over £70,000 from both internal and external funding streams to acquire new objects for the Oriental Museum. She has also been involved in securing major donations including most recently an important collection of historic Japanese toys and material relating to Shintoism.   

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

She holds an MA (Hons) in Ancient Civilisations of the Mediterranean and Near East and MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology from the University of Edinburgh and an MLitt in Museum and Gallery Studies from the University of St Andrews. Her MLitt dissertation research was recently used as the basis for the development of a Scottish Government backed policy for the use, display and storage of archaeology collections in museums across Scotland. Gillian is also currently working towards the Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA), an industry recognised qualification.  

Research interests 

  • Contemporary art, craft and design from the MENA region, East and Southeast Asia 
  • Repatriation, decolonisation and the representation of marginalised voices.   
  • History of collecting  


  • MacDonald Project – Project lead working in collaboration with partners at the University of Malaya and the National University of Singapore on a 5 year project focusing on the Chinese ceramic collection of the Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald. Project outcomes include the digitisation of the collection held across the 3 partners, the creation of an open-source digital database, an international conference and proceedings, a bi-lingual catalogue, and an international touring exhibition. 
  • Hyatt King – Co-lead on the development of a book and exhibition on the collection of David and Anne Hyatt King working in collaboration with partners at the National Museums Scotland and the British Museum. 
  • 20th Century Vietnamese Art – Co-Lead on the development of a book and exhibition on an important recent acquisition of 20th century Vietnamese art.   

Awards Granted  

  • Museum Development Programme Recovery and Development Grant (2023/24) - £8,000 to develop audio descriptive tours of the Oriental Museum in collaboration with the visual impaired community.  
  • ICOM UK - British Council Travel Grant Scheme (2019/2020) - £1,500 to travel to Malaysia and Singapore to develop links with University of Malaya and National University of Singapore, and to develop knowledge of art and design from the region. 
  • Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant (2021) - £3,00 to travel to Malaysia and Singapore to develop links with University of Malaya and National University of Singapore, and to develop knowledge of art and design from the region.  
  • Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant (2017) - £1,500 to undertake Arts of the Silk Roads Specialist Art Course at SOAS.  
  • Islamic Art and Material Culture SSN Calligraphy Support Scheme (2019) - £5,000 for a subject specialist to access the calligraphic material in the Oriental Museum, for a digitiser to photograph the objects and for an education specialist to work with our Learning and Engagement Team to build calligraphy into the Early Islam schools provision.  
  • Islamic Art and Material Culture SSN Specialist Support Grant (2016) - £5,000 for a specialistic to access the Islamic collections and for a member of the Fitzwilliam Museum education team to work with our Learning and Engagement Team to enhance the Early Islam schools provision.  


  • Voices: Contemporary Art and Design from the Middle East and North Africa (2023/24) – solo curated exhibition highlighting recent acquisitions to the Oriental Museum collection. 
  • Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2023) – Exhibition curated in collaboration with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.  
  • Guardians of the Silk Roads Heritage: Women of the Mountains of Central Asia (2022/23) – Co-curated in collaboration with colleagues in the Geography Department and the University of Central Asia.  
  • Contemporary Wood-Carved Netsuke (2023) – Touring exhibition produced by the Japan Foundation 
  • The Silla 100 Collection Project (2021) – co-curated installation in collaboration with contemporary artist Seeun Kim   
  • Lu Xun’s Legacy: Printmaking in Modern China (2019/20) – Touring exhibition produced by the Muban Educational Trust  
  • Homelands: Documenting Centuries of Cham Migration (Museum of Asian Art, University of Malaya 2018 and Oriental Museum 2019) – Co-Curated exhibition in collaboration with academics from SGIA and photographer James Seabright.  
  • Things from Home (2019) – co-curated installation throughout the museum working in collaboration with contemporary ceramicist Katrin Moye.  
  • Hidden Women (2018) – Solo curated trail around the Oriental Museum highlighting the stories of women within the collection to coincide with the anniversary of some women gaining the right to vote in the UK.  
  • In the Image of the Other: Visualising a British-Himalayan Town, Shimla (2016/2017) –co-curated exhibition with Siddharth Pandey, PhD student at University of Cambridge  
  • Daily life in ancient Lebanon (2016) – Part of exhibition team working in collaboration with colleagues in the Classics department and Durham University students. 

Permanent Gallery Development  

  • Assistant project lead for new permanent Silk Roads gallery, providing a cross cultural introduction to the Museum’s collections. (opened May 2022)   
  • Worked in collaboration with colleagues from the National Museum of Japanese History on the partial redisplay of the Japan Gallery (2017)  


Esteem indicators   

  • Recipient of the Global Professional Services Award at the Durham Global Awards 2023 for role in developing relationship with University of Malaya.  
  • Member of the Museums Association (currently working towards Associateship of the Museums Association) 
  • Member of the inaugural Decolonisation Collective (Museums Association)  
  • Ishibashi Fellow – member of the inaugural cohort of the Ishibashi Foundation School in Japanese Art and Cultural Heritage (Administered by the Centre for Japanese Studies, University of East Anglia)  

Recent Publications 

Edited Volumes   

Barclay, R., Ramsay, G., Miki, Y., Okubo, J. & Barclay, C. (eds.), Monogatari: the Art of Storytelling in Japanese Prints, (Friends of the Oriental Museum, Durham, 2022)  

Chapters in Books   

Barclay, R., Barnes, L., Ramsay, G., Barclay, C. & Armstrong, H., “‘Found in Store’: Working with Source Communities and Difficult Objects at Durham University’s Oriental Museum” in Bryant Davies, R. & Johnson-Williams, E.G. (eds.), Intersectional Encounters in the 19thC Archive: New Essays on Power and Discourse (Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2022)