Jorvik offers visitors a real slice of Viking life
Thirty years ago archaeologists made an almost miraculous discovery in York. Hidden beneath the old Cravens sweet factory they discovered the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking city.
The waterlogged soil of Coppergate had preserved thousands of objects along with many buildings. Thirty years later it is still regarded as one of the most famous and astounding discoveries in modern archaeology.
The discovery led to the creation of one of the most modern museums in England. Built on the site of the original excavation, the Jorvik Viking Centre gave visitors a real impression of how the Viking city would have looked, smelled and sounded. 25 years later, more than 15 million visitors have gone back in time to experience Viking York.
Now the York Archaeological Trust, which runs the museum, is planning a number of changes at a cost of £1 million. The plans include an underfoot reconstruction of the original Coppergate excavation; new, state of the art animatronics and the reconstruction of a Viking age house and backyard.
Chief Executive of the York Archaelogical Trust, John Walker, says the redevelopment plans reflect the charity's commitment to continuing to help attract visitors to York: "It's vital that the UK tourism industry - and historic attractions in particular - invest in facilities to remain competitive in a fast moving world by staying relevant, interesting and inspiring.
"Our feedback shows that visitors to JORVIK are immensely interested in the authentic archaeology behind the centre, and this is at the heart of the redevelopment."
Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions for the Trust, agrees that maintaining the museum's tradition of being ground-breaking is vital: "We created a visitor experience that changed the face of museums. Our determination to recreate a Viking city as authentically as possible brought in techniques and technology that were then copied by museums all over the world."
More than 15 million visitors have gone back in time to 10th century Jorvik
The Minister of Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, Barbara Follett, visited the museum on 21 July. She says she believes the development will help the local tourism industry thrive despite the recession: "The Jorvik Viking Centre is without doubt one of the region's flagship attractions. It has become one of the cultural 'rites of passage' for children, and investing in its future will help ensure that the tourism sector in the region remains buoyant."
Work on the plans will begin this November and is expected to be complete by February 2010. The museum will remain open throughout most of the work, but will close for four weeks in January.
When the museum reopens the York Archaeological Trust is convinced that visitors will continue to enjoy a trip back to a time when York was the second largest city in the country.