The Bowes Museum > Collection > Library & Archive > User Resources

User Resources


The Reading Room is fully accessible by lift from the Entrance Hall – please ask staff at the Reception Desk.  The lift will take you to the 3rd floor, where you will be met on your first visit.  You will then be taken up to the Reading Room either by using the platform trolley lift or by taking 55 stairs.

Please note that children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  See our Access Policy.

Registering as a user

On your first visit you will be asked to complete a user application form.  By signing the form you agree to abide by the Regulations.  You will be asked to provide TWO official forms of ID so that there is at least one example each of your signature and address for full registration.  If you do not register fully on your first visit, you will need to do so on your next visit.

Only fully registered readers can request material from the strongroom, which includes all archive material.

Laptops and WiFi

You  may use your own laptop in the Reading Room.  If you need to connect to the electricity supply, you will need to complete a short form before doing this.  There is WiFi connection in the Reading Room – please ask staff/volunteers on duty for help.

There is one laptop in the Reading Room for public access use – please ask staff/volunteers on duty for help.


If you want to copy any item (photography including mobile phone, photocopy, tracing, scanning), please ask staff/volunteers on duty for advice and help.  There may be a charge for any copying except tracing.  Please note that it may not be possible to copy an item (or part of an item) due to copyright restrictions or conservation considerations. See our Reprographics Policy.

Finding aids

Work is still in progress on cataloguing the archives.  The online catalogue currently lists the archives to series level through a Heritage Lottery Fund project.  Some series of the Papers of John and Joséphine Bowes (ref. JB) are being catalogued to item level through a National Cataloguing Award.  For information on and access to the transcriptions and translations of archives supporting the cataloguing work, ask staff/volunteers on duty.

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.