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The next stop for us on our mini bus adventures during the week of field trips was down to The Bowes Museum in Newgate, Durham, England. After an hour and fifteen minute drive south and to the west, we arrived to the large museum and garden. The French Neapolitan style building was purpose built to be a public museum by John Bowes (the illegitimate son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore) and his wife Josephine Chevalier. During their lifetime the couple collected an immense amount of china, silver, jewels, furniture, and pictures ranging from El Greco and Van Dyck to Turner and Toulouse- Lautrec. Unfortunately the museum opened to the public after both died.

The Bowes Museum from the Gardens

The Bowes Museum from the Gardens

The museum features a top quality cafe and encourages frequent and regular visits from those who live around it. There are lots of displays for children to play with and learn from, even including an exhibit on illustrations in a popular childrens book while we were there. The museum has a conservation department and there are displays relating to conservation located through out the museum. Photography of the exhibits is encouraged, as is engaging with social media. Once again we were all on the hunt for environmental management tools in the galleries, as well as noting and enjoying their unique and innovative exhibit design and lighting design. Unfortunately we were there during working on their heating system, so the galleries were a bit cold, but we enjoyed our day there thoroughly!

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The museum is will known for its silver swan automaton (a self-operating machine). Wonderfully the museum runs the swan once a day, every day at 2pm. Many other museums with automata do not work or they do not run them, rather electing to show a video of what it would do if it were run. The French swan ducks its head down into the glass rod river and plucks up a silver fish which it promptly eats. A wonderful display and incredible machinery considering it was made in the late 1700s!

Next up is the Beamish Outdoor Museum!