The Bowes Museum > Collection > Library & Archive

Library & Archive


TheReading Room for public access to the Reference Library and Archive has been developed above the Museum’s new accessible picture store in the central dome of the Museum.  The library has a wide range of general and art reference books as well as local interest books and rare books. 

The John and Joséphine Bowes archive and the Museum’s archive that in the past have not been accessible to the public can now be consulted in the Reading Room.  There is access to the Internet and to the databases of the Museum’s collections of objects, books and archives. There are facilities for individuals and groups of learners, staff, and researchers, primarily from GCSE upwards.

The Reading Room is open to members of the public to use the Reference Library and to consult the archives, free of charge. The opening hours are on a two-week rota: Week 1 open Tuesday 10.30-4.00 and Wednesday 10.30-1.00, Week 2 open Wednesday 1.30-4.00 and Thursday 10.30-4.00. Please contact the Museum to check which week applies to your intended visit. You will be asked to complete a user application form on your first visit and to show two official forms of ID (to give one example each of your address and signature). You do not have to book a visit in advance but it is advisable to contact us to check that what you want to see is available and if the Reference Library is definitely open to the public.

Search the Database


Search the Database

Document of the Month


Document of the Month

Explore The Archive


Explore The Archive

Volunteering Opportunities


Volunteering Opportunities

Reference Library


Reference Library

User Resources


User Resources

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.