The Bowes Museum > Collection > Research & Scholarship

Research & Scholarship

The Bowes Museum is very conscious of its history, and the remarkable survival of the collections and associated bills under one roof. It is also conscious of its position in the North of England as providing an aspect of European art history and collecting for the people of the North East, and a starting point for the more detailed researches into related history for local people and beyond. To that end, it has instigated a variety of research and cataloging projects that aim to make its collections better known, and provide access to the library and archive via a newly built reference library and reading room in the Museum’s dome. 

Much work has been done in the past, and some key publications of the recent past that gives details of the Museum’s collections and history include:

Eric Young,  Catalogue of Spanish and Italian Paintings, Durham, 1970 (the Spanish section reprinted with an introduction by E.Conran in 1988)

Charles E. Hardy, John Bowes and The Bowes Museum, Newcastle/Gateshead, 1970 (and several subsequent editions)

Sarah Medlam,  ‘Mrs. Bowes' furniture in 19th century Paris’, The Antique Collector, March, 1983, pp.77-81

Elizabeth Conran et al, The Bowes Museum, London, Scala Publications, 1992

H. Coutts and S. Medlam, 'John and Joséphine Bowes' purchases from the International Exhibitions of 1862, 1867 and 1871', Journal Number Sixteen; Decorative Arts Society 1850 to the present, 1992 pp.50-61

Emma House[ed] entries in Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in County Durham [the Public Catalogue Foundation] 2008

In addition, the following exhibition catalogues may provide guidance as to the Museum’s range of research interests, which are often allied to its acquisitions and exhibitions policy:
Dennis Coggins, (with Joanna Hashagen, Jean Hemingway; Sarah Medlam and Alan Wilkinson), People and Patterns – the Carpet Industry in 19th Century Barnard Castle, 1996

Ivan Day, Royal Sugar Sculpture, 2002

Emma House, Michael Rudd, Tony Seward, Rokeby: Poetry and Landscape: Walter Scott and Turner in Teesdale, 2012-13

For further details of access and book collections, consult the library and archive section of this website.  

Collaborative Doctoral Awards at The Bowes Museum

A consortium of the National Gallery and The Bowes Museum has been awarded nine doctoral studentships over five years from 2016 – 21 (three per year) as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme. Each institution is able to offer studentships in partnership with higher education institutions, to enable students to study for a PhD at a UK university.

In October 2016, two students started their CDP studentships at The Bowes Museum, based on the Museum’s Archive housed in the magnificent reading room at the top of the Museum. Their research interests emanate from the collecting activities of the Museum’s Founders, John and Joséphine Bowes.

The National Gallery and The Bowes Museum have substantial synergies in their research interests, which arise not only from the fact that they both hold significant collections of Old Master paintings, but also from shared interests in the research themes:  

  • Buying, Collecting, Display: This strand concentrates on the histories of the art market, as well as of picture collections and the tastes, economics, and politics that lay behind them. It also concerns audiences for art (including museum visitors today) and the histories of the institutions themselves. It provides a context for collections that supports new approaches for presentation to the public. 
  • The Meaning of Making: This strand seeks to use object-based research, combining the disciplines of art history, science and conservation, to contextualise technical study of collections by situating it within a larger art historical discourse, investigating notions of authorship, collaboration, copying, design, inspiration and their re-use/reinterpretation over time. It is a distinctive aspect of Museum/Gallery research. 
  • Art and Religion: This strand focuses on the iconography, functions and context of Christian art. A high percentage of works in collections of Western European art are of religious subjects, nearly all of them Christian, reflecting the fact that, after classical antiquity, Christianity became the predominant power shaping European culture between the 13th and 19th centuries. The research addresses how and why these sacred works of art were made, to explore what they might have meant to their original viewers and to discover what they mean to beholders today. 

The consortium builds on these common interests that are shared between the National Gallery and The Bowes Museum, as well as more generally in many museums, galleries and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

The specific themes above are not intended to be prescriptive but they serve as an effective expression of the consortium’s areas of interest, giving a framework for collaborations with HEIs and other research organisations, and for potential shared studentships. For more general information, find out about the scope of research at the National Gallery and The Bowes Museum.

Each studentship will be jointly supervised by a member of the consortium partner’s staff and an academic from an HEI in the UK, as with the existing Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) scheme. The HEI administers the studentship, receiving funds from the AHRC for fees and to cover the student’s maintenance. The consortium partner provides additional financial support to cover travel and related costs in carrying out research.

More information about Collaborative Doctoral Awards is available on the AHRC website.

Further details

Information for universities
Proposals for new studentships are developed by the National Gallery or The Bowes Museum staff (as co-supervisors) together with a named university partner (as principle supervisor) and are chosen on their academic strengths and clear support for the National Gallery's or The Bowes Museum's research objectives. We welcome expressions of interest and project ideas from any UK university.

For more information about partnering with the National Gallery, advice on potential internal collaborators and guidance for applications contact Marika Spring>

For more information about partnering with The Bowes Museum, advice on potential internal collaborators and guidance for applications contact Adrian Jenkins or Jane Whittaker>

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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…