17th September 2013
Mary Edith Durham (1863 –1944) studied at the Royal Academy and Bedford College. She was a talented artist and writer and contributed to the Cambridge Natural History journal. In 1900, Durham travelled to the Balkans to recuperate from nursing her dying mother and became captivated by the region. Durham devoted herself to travelling and studying the region for the next twenty years and was involved with relief work and the politics of the region for the rest of her life. Durham had a particular interest in Albania and she wrote seven books about the country.
Durham was a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and wrote scholarly articles for its journal, Man. Durham also wrote for The Vineyard the periodical of the Peasant Arts Guild & Society (which was a society devoted to the collecting and recording of dying peasant crafts and culture from around Europe and was based on the principles of William Morris).
Durham’s papers and collections are now held at British Museum the Royal Anthropological Institute the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and the Bankfield Museum, Halifax. The Bankfield Museum owns an important collection of textiles and costume assembled by Durham during her years in the Balkans and there is a permanent display about Durham in the museum.