When I visited the Jorvik Viking Centre in York soon after it first opened in 1984 it impressed me as a new revolutionary concept in the design of museums, that I have since seen much imitated. The introduction of an electric vehicle that transports you around the exhibits, with the added atmosphere generated by a commentary enhanced by realistic sounds and smells of the period, create a very absorbing experience. The concept is a vast improvement on touring along row upon row of glass cases as in the traditional museum, it is more entertaining and by the time you reach the artefacts displays you feel more able to understand what you are viewing.
In 2001 the Jorvik Viking Centre was upgraded and refurbished and reopened as Jorvik The Viking City. The entire Jorvik Viking Centre ride and displays have been replaced with a new exhibition, depicting a cityscape from AD975. This has moved the timeline on 27 years and visitors can witness how far the city has developed with ‘high rise’ two storey buildings.
The Jorvik story began in 1976 when the York Archaeological Trust discovered the remains of timber built workshops and rare 1000 year old artefacts while digging on the site of an old sweet factory in Coppergate. The excavations continued for a further five years and provided the knowledge and artefacts for the construction of the Jorvik museum. Archaeologists unearthed insects and objects made from wood, leather and textiles, all miraculously preserved due to the unique soil conditions, altogether nearly 20,000 individual objects were excavated. The large extent of the excavation gave a new insight to Viking everyday life and revolutionised ideas about that time and place in history.
The Jorvik experience is divided into two main phases, starting with the Timecars transporting visitors around the streets, alleyways and wharfside of the reconstructed Viking city. The Journey then continues to the dazzling new artefacts gallery, where the latest technology enable visitors to see the genuine Viking age artefacts displayed as they were found by archaeologists and also how they were used in the 10th century.
I have not as yet visited the new exhibition, but if it is an improvement on the original excellent experience, then it should be well worth a visit.
JORVIK is situated in the Coppergate shopping area close to the centre of York.