The bleak midwinter is approaching, so isn’t a throwback to last spring a wonderful idea? At the end of April, I left Turku to spend a month in the north-east of England. I had visited Durham for two days in 2015, transcribing little bits of English surviving in some Latin manuscripts, and written in my notes: “I’d like to come back”. This became possible when I got a library fellowship from the Durham University Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
This was definitely an intense work trip, but I did have time to explore the city as well. Although Durham is small, with a population of about 50,000, it bears many similarities to a city the readers of this blog know well: there is a large medieval cathedral, a river and a castle, and a disproportionately large number of students. Durham is full of instagrammable spots, and getting to know the pathways and shortcuts particularly around Palace Green Library, located between the cathedral and the castle, was an absolute pleasure.
Durham University is one of the oldest in the UK and ranks among the top 100 universities in the world. It has about 18,000 students. Since it was Easter term – reserved for examinations – they seemed to spend most of their time reading in libraries. As I resided in college, I was able to make other observations about undergraduate life, too. It is quite different from Finland, particularly as college accommodation means you spend a lot more time together with the other students, starting with breakfast each morning. There was a pleasant sense of community, which I hope the students appreciated.
In addition to doing research and enjoying life in a beautiful old town, I was also able to make weekend trips to cities like Newcastle and Manchester and to smaller places such as Bishop Auckland and Tynemouth. A particular highlight was Hadrian’s Wall, which runs across the north of England. Having spent hours and hours examining 800-year-old manuscripts indoors, a bit of more ancient history out in the country towards the end of my trip was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air.
I would like to thank Durham University, IMEMS and the Library Fellowship for making this trip possible.
Text and photos by Janne Skaffari
More pictures on Instagram; look for captions mentioning a certain ‘Dr X’.