The Bowes Museum > Collection > Explore The Collection


The collections are displayed on three floors of the magnificent French-styled building. Many of the galleries have been redeveloped in the last ten years to give better access to the artefacts, more contemporary labeling and sympathetic lighting. The Fashion & Textiles Gallery is highly regarded by our peers due to its groundbreaking method of costume display which has been developed not only to achieve the best visual access to the garments, inside and out, but also to provide the best conservation methods for the items on display. There are some amazing artefacts from the wardrobe of Empress Eugenie and other stunning pieces from the Blackborne Lace Collection.

To find out more about the collections amassed by John and Joséphine Bowes, you can learn about them either by collection or by gallery. We have also compiled a list of what we think are our most prized possessions, and things you should look out for on a visit. Though we recognise that we all have different tastes and interests, so the 25 Outstanding Treasures is just the tip of the iceberg!

Our 18th century silver swan automaton is one of our most loved objects, and for conservation purposes is only played once a day at 2.00. However, there is a whole host of information about it, and its last major overhaul in 2008 by experienced horologist, Matthew Reed.

We also have our changing Director's Choice. This is a painting chosen by Adrian Jenkins and displayed in the foyer on the wall opposite the entrance. You can discover more about Adrian's reasons for choosing the painting or paintings from our varied fine art collection and gain a personal insight into his choice. Often the Director's Choice is from our picture store, so it gives a unique opportunity to see a work of art not usually on view to the public.

It is possible to search our database of Museum, library or archive collections here.

25 Outstanding Treasures


Founders' Collection

Director's Choice

By Collection

The Silver Swan

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Information about closing

19 March 2020

Unfortunately, due to the continuing development of the Coronavirus situation, The Bowes Museum is now closed until further notice. The health and wellbeing of both our customers and our staff is our priority.

Where events can be rescheduled we will endeavour to do so but please be assured that all ticket holders for cancelled events have options on refunds and can contact, however by not requesting a refund you would be making an exceptionally generous and much appreciated charitable donation to The Bowes Museum during these unprecedented times.

Whilst the Museum is closed, we will be working on other ways of sharing our story and collection via our digital platforms. Stay posted for online videos, conversations and more.

We thank you for your patience and your continued support for The Bowes Museum during this unpredictable time. We hope to come back to you with a reopening date shortly, for now, please stay safe and help protect the vulnerable.

25 March 2020

It is with great sadness that The Bowes Museum has taken the decision to temporarily close all gates to the grounds following a spate of vandalism around the parkland.

Since the Museum closed on Wednesday 18 March the benches in the story area have been damaged, the totem pole pulled over and broken, there have been attempts to pull out outdoor trail markers and branches have been pulled down and plants uprooted.

The Museum is working with the police to find the perpetrators of these actions. PC Michael Banks of Durham Constabulary said "This is a shameful piece of criminal damage within the grounds of a historical location in Barnard Castle anyone with information please contact Durham Constabulary quoting reference number DHM23032020-0189"

The Director of The Bowes Museum, Adrian Jenkins, said: "It is a shame that the actions of a few will have an impact on many but this closure also ties in with the latest government advice to stay at home to help restrict the spread of coronavirus and the Museum is following in the footsteps of other organisations who have closed gated parks and gardens.

There are tips from our education officer on the Museum's social media platforms for keeping the kids, and yourselves, entertained while in isolation and we'll be updating the website regularly with new and exciting information about the collection.

In the meantime, please keep safe and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum and grounds when it reopens."

You can keep up to date with developments here or on our Facebook and Twitter.

We’ll be back…