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Rachel Barclay, MA (Oxon.), MA, AMA 

Senior Curator, Oriental Museum 

Telephone: +44(0)191 3345693 



Rachel is the Senior Curator of the Oriental Museum and Deputy Head of Museums, Galleries and Exhibitions.  She is a professional curator with extensive experience working globally with academics and curators from a range of disciplines to create high-quality, accessible physical and online exhibitions which share research outcomes with a range of audiences. 


Rachel Barclay originally trained as an Egyptologist at Oxford University while also participating in excavations of TT99 in the Valley of the Nobles in Luxor as part of a team from Cambridge University.  She then spent several years working in international marketing across Southern Europe, North Africa and China before returning to the museum sector to join the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University.   

As Senior Curator at the Oriental Museum, Rachel plays a very active role in building partnerships for Durham University internationally.  She has worked on projects in China, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, USA and Vietnam.  For example, her partnership with Prof Yoshi Miki of the National Museum of Japanese History, resulted in the signing of an MOU between Durham and NMJH in 2017 (renewed in 2022) which has produced a range of exhibitions and publications. A longstanding collaboration with Durham’s UNESCO Chair on Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage has resulted in several exhibitions and development of permanent museum displays in the UK, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Taiwan.   

Since her arrival in Durham in 2008, Rachel has project managed the complete redisplay of the permanent galleries at the Oriental Museum as well as maintaining a very active programme of exhibitions and art installations.  She aims to balance research-led programming with student-led and community co-curated work, ensuring that the voices of diaspora, source and faith communities are at the heart of the Museum’s interpretive approach.   

Rachel is heavily involved in university teaching Durham University undergraduate and postgraduate courses across a range of subjects including archaeology, museum studies and visual arts and culture.  

Rachel actively manages a programme to expand the collections of the Oriental Museum to meet evolving research and teaching needs of the University.  This has included securing major new donations to the Oriental Museum collections.   

She holds an MA from University of Oxford in Ancient Egyptian and Akkadian and an MA from Leicester University in Museum Studies.  She is an Associate of the Museums Association.  For 10 years she served on the national Committee of the University Museums Group.   

Research interests 

  • Asian Art and Archaeology 
  • History of Collecting 
  • Co-curation and display of religious objects in museums


Major recent international projects include: 

  • Squire Collection exhibition at the National Museum of Japanese History due to open summer 2024 
  • Co-I on the Global Challenges Research Fund project, Holy Lands: scoping the nexus between Heritage, Pilgrimage and Diaspora in India  (2022), a project led the UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics.  
  • Collaboration with the UNESCO Chair on development of the new Kapilavastu Museum, Tilaurakot, Nepal. (2019 and 2023) 
  • Leading Durham University internationalisation project building links with universities and museums in Malaysia via a series of exchange visits and Museology Workshops (2018 and 2019). 
  • Co-curating Walking with the Buddha: Discovering the Natal Landscape of the Buddha exhibition at the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Taiwan, in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair.  (2018) 
  • Collaboration with UNESCO Chair on Resilience within the Rubble (Durham/Kathmandu, Nepal), and Jaffna Fort through the Ages (Sri Lanka) exhibition projects. (2017/18) 
  • Co-leading Museums Capacity Building Workshop for delegates from a range of Vietnamese national and regional museums in Hanoi as part of an ESRC-funded project with Dr Claire Sutherland, SGIA, Durham University.  (2017)  

Recent UK based projects include  

  • Co-I for AHRC CapCo Sharing the Pleasure: Developing digital engagement using the Malcolm MacDonald Collection of Chinese ceramics  (2022-3) 
  • Co-I for AHRC CapCo funded project for the redesign and refurbishment of Oriental Museum storage facilities and research centre, including the movement and temporary storage of more than 35,000 objects under Covid restrictions. (2021-22) 

At the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford: managed preparation of a successful bid to the Oxford University for £17 million capital project to consolidate and enhance the Pitt Rivers Museum’s research, teaching, and public facilities. Co-wrote the successful proposal to HEFCE for £3.7 million grant towards the cost of the first phase of the development.  


Rachel leads the Oriental Museum exhibition programme balancing research-led, teaching-led and community co-curated exhibitions.  Exhibitions include:  

  • Co-curated ‘There was light’ King Amunhotep III and his dazzling age, with Dr Penny Wilson, Department of Archaeology, Durham University to mark the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (2022)  
  • Co-curated Monogatari: the art of storytelling in woodblock prints with colleagues at the Oriental Museum and the National Museum of Japanese History to showcase highlights from a recent major donation of Japanese art.  (2022)  
  • Curated Lunar New Year, an exhibition celebrating the Spring Festival in China. (2020)  
  • Collaborated with the Music Department at Durham University on the exhibition Khyal: Music and Imagination, supporting tour to Newcastle, Leicester and London as well as exhibition at the Oriental Museum. (2017/18)  
  • Secured agreement with British Museum to host the touring exhibition, Dressed to Impress: netsuke and Japanese men’s fashion.  Curated the exhibition for the Oriental Museum in order to mix Durham’s Japanese collections with the British Museum objects.  (2016/17)  
  • Part of project team that developed major international exhibition, Daily Life in Ancient Lebanon, including major loans from the British Museum and National Museum in Beirut.  (2016) 
  • Co-curated the exhibition, The Shogun’s Cultured Warriors, with Dr Rebekah Clements, Durham University, to tie in with first major international conference in Japanese Studies held at Durham University since relaunch of subject.  (2016) 
  • Curated the exhibition The Enlightened One: printed Buddhist Art, featuring works from across the Oriental Museum’s collections. (2015) 
  • Curated the exhibition Off the Wall: the art of the Japanese movie poster, shown at Palace Green Library, Durham University and the Oriental Museum (2014) 
  • Curated the exhibition The Happy Carp: new Japanese works in Durham. (2013-14).   

Permanent Gallery development  

  • Project management for redevelopment of MacDonald Gallery: China (current)  
  • Lead curator for new permanent Silk Roads gallery, providing a cross cultural introduction to the Museum’s collections. (opened May 2022)  
  • Project managed upgrading of Thacker Gallery of Ancient Egypt to improve security and environmental conditions. (2016)  
  • Project managed creation of new Roberts Gallery of Himalayas, South Asia and Southeast Asia.  (2015) 
  • Project managed creation of new Rutt Gallery of Korea.  (2013) 
  • Curated and project managed new Spalding Gallery of Japan. (2013) 
  • Curated and project managed creation of Thacker Gallery of Ancient Egypt and Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt.  (2009 and 2011)  

Esteem Indicators  

  • Awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the National Museum of Japanese History (2023)  
  • Acted as a consultant on the choice of objects and creation of scripts for the children’s TV series Teacup Travels for the BBC over two series aired on CBeebies channel (2016/17) 
  • Member of the national Committee for the University Museums Group (2010-2019)

Recent Publications (2013-2023) 

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)  
  • Coningham, R.A.E., Lin, R., Chang, R., Chien, M., Gong, M., Barclay, C., Lu, Y., Barclay, R., Tremblay, J. & Xian, Y. (eds.), Walking with the Buddha: Discovering the Natal Landscape of the Buddha, (FGS, Kaohsiung, 2018)  

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)  
  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., “‘Not the Footballer’: Malcolm MacDonald and the Oriental Museum”, MacDonald, M. and Shaw, N. (ed.), The Pleasures and Pains of Collecting, (Friends of the Oriental Museum, Durham, 2018)  
  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., “‘Filling the Gaps’: Reconsidering the Contribution of Henry, Earl Percy, to the Alnwick Castle Collection of Egyptian Antiquities”, in Doyen, F., Preys, R. & Quertinmont, A., (eds), Sur le Chemin du Mouseion d’Alexandrie. Études Offertes à Marie-Cécile Bruwier, (CENIM, Montpellier, 2018)  

Conference Proceedings 

  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., “‘Walking with the Buddha through the Collections of Durham University”, Coningham, R. et al (eds), Walking with the Buddha: Discovering the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Workshop Handbook (FGS, Taiwan, 2018)   

Journal Articles 

  • Coningham, R.A.E., Acharya, K.P., Barclay, C.P., Barclay, R., Davis, C.E., Graham, C., Hughes, P.N., Joshi, A., Kelly, L., Khanal, S., Kilic, A., Kinnaird, T., Kunwar, R.B., Kumar, A., Maskey, P.N., Lafortune-Bernard, A., Lewer, N., McCaughie, D., Mirnig, N., Roberts, A., Sarhosis, V., Schmidt, A., Simpson, I.A., Sparrow, T., Toll, D.G., Tully, B., Weise, K., Wilkinson, S., Wilson, A. 2019.” Reducing disaster risk to life and livelihoods by evaluating the seismic safety of Kathmandu’s historic urban infrastructure: enabling an interdisciplinary pilot”, Journal of the British Academy 7(S2) (2019)  
  • Barclay C. & Barclay R., “Spalding Gallery of Japan, Durham: Durham’s Japanese Culture Capsule”, Museums & Heritage (Spring 2014)  

Contributions to exhibition catalogues 

  • Barclay, R., “Uterine Dreams: Foreword” in Danays, S., Uterine Dreams: Sculptor, Heal Thyself, (Durham, 2021) 
  • Barclay, R., “Celadon pavilion-shaped lamp in openwork”, The Palace Museum, Zhejiang Provincial Museum and the Lishui Municipal People’s Government: Longquan of the World: Longquan Celadon and Globalization Vol. IV Imitations and Evolvements, (Palace Museum, Beijing 2021)  


  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., Review of Lau, S. & De Lucy, J. (eds.), Chinese Labour Corps: Photographs from the WJ Hawkings Collection in Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, 8.2 (2018)  
  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., Review of Yang Liu, China’s Terracotta Warriors: the First Emperor’s Legacy, (Seattle, 2013) in Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, 4 (2014)  
  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., Review of Johnston, J., & Chan Lai Pik, 5,000 years of Chinese Jade: featuring selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, (Seattle, 2011) in Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, 4 (2014)  
  • Barclay, C. & Barclay, R., Review of Mackenzie, C., Masterworks of Chinese Art: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, (Seattle, 2011) in Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, 4 (2014)