Jorvik attraction ready to open after Â£4m revamp
As the water levels began to rise in the aftermath of a severe storm, members of York Archaeological Trust had just hours to remove thousands of priceless artefacts, preserved 1,000 year-old timbers and pieces of equipment from the underground site and transport them to safety.
Just 16 months later, after a £4m ‘re-imagining’, the centre, is once again ready to receive visitors.
Curator Christine McDonnell said: “Not only did we manage to save all the artefacts but none of them were damaged. We have carried out remedial restoration and they are now probably in the best condition they have been in since they were first lost.”
Many aspects of the Jorvik experience, first created in 1984, have been improved since the flood and there is now greater use of video, photography, sound and smells to bring to life a snapshot of a small section of Viking York in AD960.
David Jennings, chief executive of York Archaeological Trust said: “From day one we began reimagining it. We knew we wanted to keep the iconic ride which is what a lot of people associate Jorvik with but there has been a lot of research in the field of Viking studies since the 1980s and we wanted to introduce new themes which are important in the telling of the Jorvik story.”
Sarah Maltby, director of attractions who led the transformation, said: “Archaeology doesn’t stand still, we keep learning and we keep finding out more. The idea was to use all that in the new version of Jorvik, pick up on major new themes, tell some new stories and reinterpret some of the objects. For example, we wanted to make it more apparent that Jorvik was a multicultural place 1,000 years ago with people arriving from all over the Viking world to settle and trade.
“We have the introduction of Christianity into York and the fact that when they arrived the Vikings were pagans but as they integrated into society they took up Christian religion.
“We also have the textile collection. Using the environmental research we’ve done recently we know the types of dyes they were using to dye their cloths so we know the colours they were wearing.”
The attention to detail in the ‘city’ is staggering. The animatronic figures (31 characters and 12 animals) are uncannily lifelike, there are tiny footprints in the mud from the chickens, lichen growing on the walls of the buildings and even ‘blood’ running down from a table of offal being gnawed on by a large, malevolent-looking rat.
Ms Maltby added: “If you look at the blacksmith he has half a finger missing after an industrial accident and the leather worker is sewing a shoe but he has Dupuytren’s contracture of his hands. Called the Viking disease it is a shortening of ligaments in the hand.
“There are new smells, damp wood, musky wharf-side and, of course, we have the old favourite – the man on the toilet!”
Jorvik came into being when the charity York Archaeological Trust conducted extensive excavations in the area and found well-preserved remains of the Viking city of Jorvík. Unusually, wood, leather, textiles, and plant and animal remains were preserved in the clay.