Work is underway on creating new gallery spaces at one of County Durham's leading attractions.

The Curiosity Project will see the galleries on the ground floor of Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, transformed into brand new interactive spaces that will celebrate collections, inspire curiosity and encourage exploration and conversation.

The creation of these new spaces comes after feedback from visitors, who said they wanted to explore the stories behind some of the different objects at the museum.

Visitors also said they wanted to get hands-on with materials and techniques and to learn more about the artists, designers and makers whose works are cared for by the museum.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham

The museum’s director of programmes and collections, Vicky Sturrs, said: "We’re excited to be bringing new galleries to The Bowes Museum.

"Working with our communities, we’ve explored new ways to see and understand our collections, we’ve heard directly how people want to feel in their museum and what kind of environments and objects help shape those experiences.

“I’m thrilled to say we’re able to make those happen through this refit. Being able to get more of collections on show is key for me, and our new storage vaults help us with this.”

To make room for the new refurbishments three former offices and educational spaces in the museum's vaults have been stripped back to be kitted out with new display systems to better store and care for their collections. The stored furniture, textile and ceramic objects will also be accessible to visitors in specialist guided tours from April 2024.

The galleries on the ground floor have also been cleared, with shutters to long-closed windows reopened and new flooring laid in preparation for the new gallery spaces, which will hone in on curiosity, creativity, conversation and activity.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Inside The Bowes Museum at their 2023 Winter Market

A 'Curiosity Space' will introduce a soundscape that links the gallery to the outside world and will change as visitors move around the room.

Displays are also set to change regularly. In April, the museum will see collections from artists, designers and makers portray ideas about neighbourliness, hospitality and the Teesdale landscape. 

A 'Create Space' will allow visitors to take a deep dive into the making processes of collections and to experiment with materials themselves through prompts and ideas set by The Bowes Museum artist team.

A 'Conversation Space' will become an area where people relax and discuss. Visitors will have the opportunity to further explore artworks that link to wider ideas and key challenges the world is facing. With the aim of these conversations - to provide local solutions to global problems.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Bowes Museum setting up their Let's Have a Conversation Dog Exhibition

One of the first-floor rooms, once used for storage, will become an area known as 'The Hive'. Aiming to become a 'hive of activity’, it is inspired by The Bowes Museum co-founder, Josephine Bowes’.

At the Hive, visitors will be able to see objects, artefacts, documents and collections that have been curated through important collaborations with staff, volunteers and community members. This space hopes to serve as a reminder that everyone can collect and everyone curates.

Ms Sturrs added: “This is the start of a journey of curiosity at the museum too, so we expect to redisplay these spaces regularly, reinforcing the message that there’s always something great to see and do at The Bowes Museum."

Museum staff and the volunteer team will be on hand to guide visitors and answer any questions. Those interested in volunteering on this new venture can find out more by contacting

The museum has worked with more than 100 individuals, families and community groups to shape the new spaces and the community co-production project has been made possible thanks to funding from DCMS Wolfson Foundation and the Foyle Foundation.