A MUSEUM expert will leave a pretty Dales market town for the bustling capital of China where he will share the story of one of the attraction's most famous exhibits.

The Bowes Museum’s horology expert and director of The Bowes Centre, Matthew Read, will travel to Beijing next week to take part in a prestigious conference.

The Horological Collections at the Beijing Palace Museum: A Knowledge Exchange event at the Chinese Academy of Sciences is being hosted by The London Science Museum with support from the Academy.

Mr Read has been invited as a specialist horological historian and technician to talk about the Barnard Castle museum’s Silver Swan, how it works, its preservation and how visitors respond to it.

The life-size silver swan sits on a glass stream and, when its clockwork mechanisms are wound up, music plays, the water appears to flow and the swan twists its head to preen its back before it catches and swallows a fish.

Dating from 1773, the model has become an icon of the museum and its afternoon performances are a favourite with visitors.

Mr Read said: “I’m really delighted to be going to this symposium. I haven’t been to China before so it’s going to be exciting to be part of the dialogue that will hopefully lead to a partnership looking at the different approaches taken to clocks, watches and automatons.

“I’m looking forward to being able to discuss the questions I have regarding the future of the horological trade with other experts from around the world to find out if we face the same challenges with these dynamic, historical objects.

“It’s also exciting to think that perhaps a Chinese-Anglo relationship could grow out of this, which would see students at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Jiaotong University finding ways to support this dying craft.”

The workshop will focus on the mechanics and challenges of preserving clocks, watches and automatons.

The two-day conference has been initiated and funded by The London Science Museum with support from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is part of the AHRC-funded research project ‘Time, Culture and Identity: the co-creation of historical research and co-development of visitor experience in China and the UK.