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Bowes Museum secures funding for Ceramics Gallery

The Barnard Castle attraction has been awarded almost £250,000 to refurbish its Ceramics Gallery

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham
The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham

The Bowes Museum’s much-admired ceramics collection will be given a home to match its historic importance, thanks to a grant of almost quarter of a million pounds.

The Barnard Castle attraction has been awarded £247,050 towards the cost of rejuvenating its Ceramics Galleries, which contain some of the most significant and largest collections outside London, but which hasn’t been refurbished since the 1980s.

The award, jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and the Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, will be used to help reinterpret the galleries in order to display this key collection in a more vibrant and audience-friendly way.

The refurbishment will bring the Ceramics Gallery in line with some of the museum’s other spaces, where innovative standards of display and interpretation have been established in recent years - most notably the Fashion and Textile Gallery, which was itself awarded a £180,000 grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation at the end of last year to support the expansion of the gallery’s curatorial and conservation work.

Speaking of the most recent piece of good news, the museum’s head of collections, Jane Whittaker, said: “Our focus is on completing the refurbishment of the museum to the high standards set by our recent new displays.

“The aim is that everything we do will match the quality of the collection, and we are delighted to receive this generous award to enable us to continue.

“The new galleries will enable The Bowes Museum to do what most other museums in the UK, outside London, cannot; explain the unique cultural significance of its collection in a world context, spanning five centuries, due to its extensive collection of European and oriental ceramics.”

The Bowes Museum’s collection of ceramics covers the full range of continental porcelain and faience from medieval times to the 19th Century, with the collection’s greatest strength concentrated in the 18th Century.

The project - the latest phase of improvement works undertaken by the museum since 2006 - will aim to transform an area covering almost a third of the second floor, utilising modern lighting and display methods.

Once complete, all the public spaces on the second floor will have undergone major refurbishment or redecoration within the past five years.

Meanwhile, the knowledge and expertise of the museum’s long-serving keeper of ceramics, Dr Howard Coutts, will underpin the interpretation of the galleries.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The range of projects being funded is testament to the great variety of wonderful collections and attractions at our museums and galleries across the country.

“These grants will help improve visitor experiences, benefiting local communities and helping to encourage growth, while also inspiring audiences with new knowledge.

“I’m delighted that with the ongoing generosity of the Wolfson Foundation we have been able to help fund so many projects.”

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