An undisputed masterpiece of Norman culture and a World Heritage Site since 1986, the architectural complex of the Durham Cathedral is one of the most majestic sacred buildings in Europe, still today a renowned beacon of spirituality and destination teeming with pilgrims.
The recent "Open Treasure" project, which cost more than ten million pounds, represents the first step of an ambitious plan to renew the architectural features and improve the visitors' experience for its countless guests.
Open Treasure offers the opportunity and stimuli to visit the entire complex, including some spaces that have been closed to the public until recently, like the splendid architecture of the cloister, by reorganising the museum spaces and opening new ones to house its permanent collections and welcome a rich programme of temporary exhibits.
From the fourteenth-century Monk’s Dormitory, now home to interactive exhibits and various activities for visitors of all ages, the itinerary continues through the renovated Collections Gallery, to the spectacular Kitchen with its lofty octagonal ceiling, which has also been transformed into an exhibition space. From here visitors pass through the new Pilgrimage and Community Galleries to return to the medieval Cloister.
Based on designs by MB Studio of Edinburgh, Goppion has created 5 different types of display cases, two for the Great Kitchen and three for the corridor that connects with the Dormitory.
The destinations of the display cases - those in the Kitchen must hold the treasure of Saint Cuthbert, the most precious and iconic pieces of the Cathedral collection, while the others will safeguard objects on loan from leading national institutions, like the British Library, hence obliging compliance with very high standards - called for exceptional micro-climatic control.
Indeed, Goppion’s display cases had to guarantee a seal of at least 100 days (or ten-fold what is normally considered a standard requirement). This implied that special attention had to be paid to the individual fittings and joints of each component, as well as to the magnetic seals. Finding an adequate solution took more than a year of studies, experimentation, controls, and prototyping, but gave us the satisfaction of nearly doubling the objective, reaching - in a showcase with pantograph lift - a seal lasting up to 193 days.
In order to maintain the desired internal temperature, some display cases have a heat exchanger capable of increasing and controlling the circulation of air inside the case itself.
All the display cases installed last summer will be subjected to monitoring by museum curators designated by the Cathedral Dean and, only after this "trial period" of about one year, will they be used to hold the works they were designed to showcase.