ANIMAL MAGIC: Clara was an European sensation
ANIMAL MAGIC: Clara was an European sensation

A FUN family exhibition has opened at The Bowes Museum following the story of Clara – an Indian rhinoceros who travelled from the subcontinent to Europe in the 18th century, creating a sensation where ever she went.

The animal was greeted by royalty and cheering crowds as she toured around the cities on the continent. She inspired paintings, songs, poems and sculptures – just like the museum’s own white marble statue.

This exhibition features two trails packed with fun tasks and rhino facts inside the museum and in the grounds.

Visitors will be given a special passport to fill in, complete with a sticker sheet of Clara’s friends in the museum, as they follow her adventures around the collection before coming face to face with a model of a life size rhino.

The museum has teamed up with the charity Helping Rhinos to highlight the danger the species is in today and to show what work is happening to preserve and protect rhino populations in the wild.

Visitors will be able to find out about Thandi, a rhino with a similar past to Clara, who was rescued as a baby by the charity after her parents were killed by poachers and who has gone on to have four calves of her own.

Simon Jones, chief Executive officer of Helping Rhinos, said: “Working with The Bowes Museum on the Clara exhibition has been hugely rewarding and I am sure the visitors to the museum will enjoy learning about Clara’s story and seeing how times have changed, but at the same time, understanding how rhinos still face the real threat of extinction within our lifetimes.”

Clara’s voyage is familiar to many people thanks to the storybook Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists and Won the Heart of Everyone… While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent by Emily Arnold McCully.

Visitors will be able to enjoy these delightful illustrations as the museum has been kindly lent the original watercolours for the children’s book by the R Michelson Galleries in Massachusetts, America.

Ms McCully said: “I first encountered Clara while wandering the stacks of a university library. I was looking for an animal subject and tracked down a book that featured an 18th century elephant. But Clara was there as well. I responded to her just as all those Europeans along her route did.”

The graffiti artist Dan Walls, who transformed part of the museum for the Lego exhibition has also worked his magic again, helping to set a lively and colourful scene for part of Clara’s voyage.