JORVIK Viking Centre - the original Viking encounter for all the family
- Credit: Archant
Standing right in the heart of York is the fascinating JORVIK Viking Centre – with thousands of years of history quite literally beneath your feet, and with a state-of-the-art ride, it’s a museum you won’t forget
Finding ways to keep the whole family busy during the summer holidays is no easy feat, but if you're in York for the day you'll be spoilt for choice with fantastic shopping and a whole host of historic attractions to choose from. A star of the show is the world-famous JORVIK Viking Centre which is located within the Coppergate Shopping Centre. Here you can journey back in time to 10th century, Viking-age York - which was then known as Jorvik - with the chance to get up close to objects that are steeped in nearly 1000 years of history.
The story behind JORVIK Viking Centre itself is almost as fascinating as the artefacts that are on display here today. It is located on the site of a momentous archaeological dig that took place during the 1970s and 80s, as Beth Dawes from the museum explains. "York Archaeological Trust took the opportunity of a shopping centre development to do more exploratory digs of the area, following an earlier smaller dig that had found Viking-era remains. They quickly realised that the deposits were really amazing," she says. The water-logged conditions of the soil here meant that relics from the 10th century had been incredibly well-preserved; around 40,000 objects were uncovered, including roof tiles, pieces of pottery and more detailed artefacts such as items of clothing, combs and bowls. Peter Addyman, who was director of York Archaeological Trust at the time, decided that these findings needed to be put on show and with that JORVIK Viking Centre was born in 1984.
Today there are three main components to the museum, with 'Discover Coppergate' being the first. Here you can experience what it would have been like for the archaeologists of the 1970s - there is even a glass floor overlooking the ground that they excavated, where you can make out the remarkable outlines of the Viking houses. "Around the room we have multimedia displays where you can hear the people who were involved in the dig talk about their experiences," Beth says. "There are amazing photographs with some brilliant 80s outfits and haircuts!" Touchscreen displays allow children to try their hand at archaeology, and 'Viking Hosts' throughout the museum will be on hand to answer any questions that you might have. "They're in costume and they'll tell you all about their Viking life - they can even speak a bit of Old Norse too," Beth adds.
You'll then move on to the unique ride experience, where you'll board a 'time capsule' and embark on a journey through 10th century York. "You'll be taken around the settlement and through all the houses and backyards, so you get to see all the different things that the people of Jorvik would have been up to," Beth explains. The latest animatronics technology has been utilised to bring a bygone world to life - meet figures such an Arabic trader, a priest, a storyteller and a blacksmith and his son, and uncover their fascinating stories. "Very famously we have even recreated the smells of the period," Beth says, so it is a truly immersive journey. Finally you'll arrive at the museum gallery, where you can come face-to-face with the huge range of objects that were uncovered here. As well as the permanent attractions, the centre welcomes temporary exhibitions too; this summer you can see internationally significant Viking treasures that are currently on loan from the British Museum, as well as a collection from the Isle of Man titled 'The Pagan Lady of Peel' which delves into the untold stories of Viking women. Look out for the stunning necklace that is complete with glass, amber and jet beads.
From the minute you step in the door of the JORVIK Viking Centre, you'll realise there's a lot more to this fascinating period of history than the stereotypical image of an angry-looking man wearing a helmet with horns - in fact, did you know that it's highly unlikely that Vikings wore helmets like this at all? "A lot of what we're doing here at JORVIK is to subvert those stereotypes, because many of the images that we have of the period actually come from the Victorian age," Beth explains. It's an educational experience for visitors young and old, with something to cater for those who already have an in-depth knowledge of the Vikings through to those who have never studied the period before. As a result, if you take the family here during the summer holidays, not only will they learn something new but they're bound to have fun too - and surely that's the most important thing of all?!
Booking for JORVIK Viking Centre in advance is advisable so that you can Fast Track the queue with a guaranteed entry time; tickets are available online at www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk
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