Creating The Bowes Museum: Public collecting, private philanthropy and the art market in the public art museum in Britain and France 1830 - 1900

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Fine Art History of Art&Cult Stud


This PhD research project will utilise previously unexplored archive materials now made available following a major £12 million capital investment programme at the Bowes. The archives at the Bowes include a remarkable collection of bills, dealers' letters and auction catalogues and an extensive range of personal correspondence of John and Joséphine Bowes on their collecting and patronage activities in Britain and France, as well as documents relating to the designs for the museum and its proposed organisation. It is envisaged that the preliminary research activities will also underpin the development of an exhibition and interpretation material and publicity in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the opening of The Bowes Museum in 2017.


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Description This project has used the recently catalogued archive of The Bowes Museum to greatly enhance the understanding of the context in which the founding collection was formed, housed and displayed. My research has shown that John and Joséphine Bowes were informed and influenced by many of the large private and public collectors of the second half of the nineteenth century in a way that until now has been little recognised. Further to this my research has unveiled significant information regarding the provenance of many of the objects in the collection; how they were interpreted over the last decades of the nineteenth and the beginning decades of the twentieth century

In a broader sense this project has made a direct intervention into the scholarship concerning the practices of private collectors and public art museums in the nineteenth century, foregrounding The Bowes Museum firmly as one of the earliest private collection museums and therefore worthy of much more academic attention.
Exploitation Route The museum could use it for a reinterpretation of the permanent galleries
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Doctoral research used in to inform a display at Tennants Auction House, Leyburn entitled 'John and Joséphine Bowes: Collecting the Far East' (1 September - 1 October 2017). It was also used in a public programme to coincide with the display that included a public talk on the display's subject. Doctoral research contributed to a major exhibition at The Bowes Museum, County Durham entitled SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story (26 January - 5 May 2019). It was also used in a public programme to coincide with the exhibition that included talks and tours of the exhibition for public and private patrons, social media coverage and a public engagement project that collaborated with antique dealers, collectors and the general public in the community local to Barnard Castle.
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural