A day out at the Bowes Museum’s YSL exhibition


My friend and I, both being a bit obsessed with clothes and one of us being an expert in Museum textiles (sadly not me) were both dying to go and see the YSL exhibition at the The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. It’s perhaps not the sort of thing that you would expect to take a toddler to, but as I don’t get a lot of time with Molly as it is and I firmly believe that lots of new and different experiences leads to a well rounded individual, we decided to take her along and see what she made of it.

We arrived just before lunch time and decided that we were too hungry to see the exhibition before lunch so we trooped off into the parkland surrounding The Bowes Museum to have our picnic. We found a lovely children’s play area with mini-Stonehenge sculptures and various climbing structures made out of wood and more importantly perhaps, at that particular moment in time, lots of picnic benches!


Picnic consumed and running around achieved (for some, not all of us) we headed back to the car to drop off our picnic bags and blankets – the car parking was in really easy walking distance of both the picnic area and the Museum which was really convenient.

The queuing system to buy tickets was a little confusing but there was a member of staff on hand to explain where we needed to go and we got our tickets bought easily and efficiently enough. We did inquire about children’s activity packs as I’d read online that there was one for toddlers. We were told that there were two separate backpacks, one with indoor activities and one for an outdoor trail and both could be secured with a £5 deposit. We decided not to bother on this occasion as Molly was probably a little too young for the indoor pack and although I would like to explore the outdoor trail pack, I think this demanded an entirely different visit altogether.

First things first, we checked out the facilities which were fine and had baby changing facilities which is always really useful when out and about with a toddler. They also had portable steps to help littlies reach the sinks which I thought was a nice touch.

I was a bit nervous about taking Molly into the exhibition if I’m honest, not only because I didn’t know how Molly would respond to a more formal environment but also because I didn’t know how other people would respond to Molly being in a more formal environment. Things started quite well, at the very beginning of the exhibition was a large screen showing film footage of models wearing YSL designs on the catwalk backed by Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Molly seemed completely captivated by this and spent a good 5-10 minutes watching the footage and dancing to the music, much to the amusement of onlookers. I was really pleased that she’d found something to engage her and that her 2 year old brain could relate to! However, as we got further into the exhibition, she was less engaged and started to do what toddlers do best when they’re bored, play-up and try to run around. I was really disappointed with the way the staff responded to this. Instead of attempting to engage her with the beautiful surroundings they hovered over us making me feel really quite uncomfortable and one lady even snapped at me that I “mustn’t let her touch” which I felt was quite unnecessary.

The exhibition itself was beautiful and the clothes were stunning, but we were expecting there to be a bit more to it. It was apparently the first exhibition in the UK to present a comprehensive display of YSL’s work and life so it was quite exciting to see it.

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After we left the exhibition we had a quick wander up to the next floor and found a pre-historic section with a  toys and crafts area! We made a bee-line for it and Molly had a fantastic time playing with the little cavemen and woolly mammoth figurines whilst our friend made her a lovely saber-tooth tiger mask which Mollly took great delight in running around with growling loudly.



We also found a lovely story book called “Cave Baby” written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Emily Gravett. (you can watch Julia Donaldson perform a song about Cave Baby Here) which we read a couple of times…


We were all getting quite tired at this point and in need of refreshment (in the form of left over picnic food) so we quickly visited the gift shop where there were lots of beautiful but quite pricey things to buy. I was lusting after the YSL souvenir scarves but at £30 a scarf they unfortunately had to stay where they were. But Molly chose a bouncy ball to add to her ever growing collection and we did find these treasures to come home with us…


We had a very quick play in the children’s play area on the way out. Molly had a lovely time running around and climbing on things but disappointingly there was very little for toddlers to do as it was much more aimed at older children.


We still had a wonderful day but this was more to do with company than the venue itself. It felt a little like The Bowes Museum was making a token gesture at being family friendly but just not quite getting it right. I think if I go back in the near future it will be for adult time, otherwise I’ll be leaving it a couple more years before taking Molly back.

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