Housed in an impressive French-style chateau in the picturesque market town of Barnard Castle, The Bowes Museum was founded in the late 19th Century by local businessman John Bowes and his Parisian wife Josephine. Together they built the greatest collection of fine and decorative art in the north of England. Treasures include furniture, textiles, paintings, sculptures and ceramics drawn from a range of European styles and periods. The museum’s famous Silver Swan – a solid silver automaton – is the icon of the collection.
As part of an extensive renovation, the Bowes Museum doubled its storage space and improved conditions for its paintings and books by adding modern storage facilities by Bruynzeel Storage Systems.
When the renovation project began, storage areas were spread widely across the entire third and fourth floors. Many stores were in the attic space, directly below the roof. Access was difficult and the outdated nut-and-bolt shelving provided neither the capacity nor the preservation the collection required.
The ambitious renovation project saw the creation of new galleries and additional mezzanines on the upper floors of the museum, where Bruynzeel installed a range of modern storage systems.
Bruynzeel fitted out two store rooms with ArteStore picture racking and installed Compactus mobile shelving in the archive and rare books store. In the library, Bruynzeel fitted Sysco static library shelving, which was powder-coated in Antique Brown to complement the interior design.
Working alongside the main contractor, Bruynzeel countersunk rails and tracks for the Compactus mobile shelves and the picture racking into the four mezzanine floors, thereby maximising the available space for storage as well as creating a more streamlined and cleaner finish.
“Bruynzeel’s storage solutions have increased our storage space and improved the conditions in which our reserve fine art collection and books are stored,” said Jon Old, Senior Conservator at the museum. “Bruynzeel understood our requirements and what we were trying to achieve. They worked closely with our project team throughout the contract, with the result that the somewhat challenging delivery and installation went smoothly.”
In particular, Jon praised Bruynzeel’s skill and adaptability when dealing with the challenges of working in an historic building. For example, all the new storage system equipment had to be craned into the building through a window almost 30m above ground.
“We are now able to store [our books] in such a way that they are easily retrieved for reference and viewing in our fantastic reading room,” said Jon.
- Doubled the storage capacity of the museum
- Mobile picture racking allows for easy storage and retrieval of artworks
- Bespoke colour finish on Sysco book shelving to match historic interior
- Reference library is simple and fast to access, thanks to mobile shelving and a new cataloguing system