The adventures of Clara
The adventures of Clara

The adventures of Clara

17 July 2021 - 31 October 2021

Meet Clara – once the most famous rhinoceros in the world.  See, hear and even smell what life was like for her in the adventures of Clara which opens at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle on Saturday 17 July and runs until 31 October.


This interactive fun family exhibition follows the story of Clara, an Indian rhinoceros who travelled from her home in India to Europe in the 18th century, creating a sensation where ever she went.


She was greeted by royalty and cheering crowds who journeyed from far and wide to see her as she toured around the cities on the continent. She inspired paintings, songs, poems and sculptures, just like the Museum’s very own white marble statue, to be created.


This exciting exhibition features two immersive trails packed with fun tasks and rhino facts both inside the Museum and in the grounds.  Visitors will be given a special passport to fill in, complete with a sticker sheet of Clara’s friends in the Museum, as they follow her adventures around the collection before coming face to face with a model of a life size rhino!


The Museum has teamed up with the charity ‘Helping Rhinos’, to highlight the danger the species is in today and to show what work is happening to preserve and protect rhino populations in the wild.


Visitors will be able to find out about Thandi, a rhino with a similar past to Clara, who was rescued as a baby by the charity after her parents were killed by poachers and who has since gone on to have four calves of her own.


Simon Jones, the Chief Executive Officer of Helping Rhinos said: "Raising awareness around the world of the threats that rhinos face every day is a critical part of our work at Helping Rhinos. Working with The Bowes Museum on the Clara exhibition has been hugely rewarding and I am sure the visitors to the museum will enjoy learning about Clara's story and seeing how times have changed, but at the same time, understanding how rhinos still face the real threat of extinction within our lifetimes."

Clara’s voyage is familiar to many people, thanks to the storybook “Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists and Won the Heart of Everyone… While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent” by Emily Arnold McCully. 


Visitors will be able to enjoy these delightful illustrations as the Museum has been kindly lent the original watercolours for the children’s book by the R. Michelson Galleries in Massachusetts, America.


Emily Arnold McCully, author, said: “I first encountered Clara while wandering the stacks of a university library. I was looking for an animal subject and tracked down a book that featured an 18th century elephant. But Clara was there as well! I responded to her just as all those Europeans along her route did. To draw a supremely hideous rhinoceros and convey the effect her beautiful soul had on all who saw her was an irresistible challenge. Clara and her captain make a uniquely appealing love story. The geography and the logistics appealed to the child in me, as well. I thought it was all perfect for a picture book. I am thrilled that The Bowes Museum will be bringing my love of Clara to a new generation of museum goers.”


Richard Michelson, the gallery founder, added: “Just as Clara captivated Europe, Emily McCully, winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal (America’s highest honor for Picture Book Illustration) among multiple other awards, will captivate children and adults alike with her elegant and expressive watercolor-and-ink drawings, which bring Clara back to life in all her impressive size and gentleness.


McCully’s books often celebrate the bravery of young girls, the bond between animals and humans, and a love for the natural world. We are delighted that visitors to the beautiful Bowes Museum will now be able to see these flawless illustrations for themselves.”


The graffiti artist Dan Walls, who transformed part of the Museum for the LEGO®: Building The Bowes Museum exhibition, has worked his magic again, helping to set a very lively and colourful scene for part of Clara’s voyage.


Jane Whittaker, The Bowes Museum’s Head of Collections, said: “The adventures of Clara retells the story of this amazing rhinoceros’ incredible journey over 300 years ago.


We’re really proud of this fantastic enjoyable family experience which has been beautifully and thought-provokingly created by our colleagues Julia Dunn and Adam Bellamy to entertain both children and the young at heart.


It introduces our founders, John and Joséphine Bowes, to the public in a new way too, keeping alive their wish to see the Museum educate and enrich the lives of all who visit it.  We hope this exciting exhibition will also inspire people to discover more about what we can do to help preserve endangered animals.”


In keeping with the environmental theme, the information panels for the trails have, where possible, been made with sustainable materials.


Throughout every week of the school summer holidays the exhibition will be accompanied by a series of free fun drop in events outdoors in the Museum’s gardens which will include:

Creating a woven dreamcatcher on Mondays from 11.00 until 3.00, inspired by Clara’s journey over land and sea.  Materials can represent land, sea, culture, fashion or climate – whatever takes your fancy!  Dreamcatchers can be decorated with sticks, straws, leaves, ribbons and bows.

Designing and making a map on Tuesdays from 11.00 until 3.00 before staining it with tea and adding rhino paw prints to show part of Clara’s journey, India to Rotterdam or her trip around Europe.  Attendees can use a feather quill pen to inscribe messages of hope, kindness, courage and friendship, just like Clara and the captain’s journey.  Before rolling it with a ribbon and popping in a bottle to take home.

Creating festive rhino eye masks or horn headdresses on Saturdays inspired by Venetian masks, which can be adorned with lace, ribbon, sparkles and pompoms.


The adventures of Clara is open from Saturday 17 July up to, and including, 31 October 2021.


Tickets to the Museum must be pre-booked online at


The Museum is open every day (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day) from 10.00 until 5.00.


Entry to Café Bowes and the Museum shop is free.





Notes to Editors



  • The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 
  • The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a National Portfolio Organisation receives support from Arts Council England. Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.
  • The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.
  • The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 03000 262626,




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