These are exciting times for The Bowes Museum
as it prepares to unveil a sparkling new Silver & Metals Gallery in time for Easter.
The new gallery, due to open on Good Friday, is part of a £10m makeover which is steadily transforming the Barnard Castle treasure house. The innovative design will enable a vast amount of previously unseen pieces, along with some well known favourites, to be displayed to best advantage.
Some of the finest and most famous craftsmen, including Paul Storr, will be represented alongside figurative bronzes, clocks, watches and tableware, with items inventively displayed to create novel tableaux such as a coin cascade and unusual table settings. The Joseph Collection of porcelain boxes, formerly on loan to the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House, will also be on show.
There will be little natural light in the gallery so that state-of-the-art lighting effects can be used to provide atmosphere and highlight the exhibits. This focused lighting will pick out objects to maximise their gleam, while mirrors and other reflective surfaces are being used to create a glowing, sparkling environment.
A special feature will be enhanced interpretation and display of the Museums two famous automata a mechanical gold mouse of 1818, and the internationally famous Silver Swan, which after recent conservation in full view of the public is now back on show and performing daily. A multi-media interactive facility will allow visitors to investigate the Swans history and its amazing 235-year-old mechanism.
The Museums transformation is part of a five year plan for the French-style chateau which includes roof restoration and improved visitor amenities, including ground floor lavatories and a passenger operated lift.
The stylish Café Bowes has recently reopened following a stunning revamp and now offers waitress service to complement its tempting menu, which continues to promote the use of local produce. The shop has also had a makeover and been extended to offer a wider range of gifts, books, stationery, toys and confectionery, many of which are linked to the collections.
An entertaining exhibition for all the family opens on Saturday 9 May. Toy Tales, a celebration of 60 years of BBC TV childrens programmes, is guaranteed to inject a dose of nostalgia whatever your age.