Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Jorvik Viking Centre, York

Following on from my heightened interest in the Viking Age, on a recent visit to York I finally got around to paying a visit to the city's Jorvik Viking Centre.

The one thing which struck me at first was how small the premises appear to be, but there is plenty going on inside! I found the staff to be both cheerful and helpful.

Some of the emphasis is naturally on the role of York in the Viking Age, and on the numerous archaeological discoveries made in the city, but these elements are also placed in the context of the wider Viking Age and the world as it stood in those times.

Perhaps the highlight of the visit was the "ride" around a reconstruction of parts of the Viking-age city, complete with an informative and entertaining commentary. This excellently complemented the other exhibits in the centre.

I was pleased to see that the displays went into some detail about economic, social and cultural life in York, and elsewhere, during the Viking Age. The artefacts are well presented and explained. Effective use is made of multimedia and interactive features, and these go into some detail about topics such as lifestyles, health, domestic life and so forth.

I think that the Jorvik Viking Centre achieves a happy balance between the accessible and the academic. There is I would suggest something here for beginners, the casual visitor and also the more devoted student.

A benefit of the compact space is that the centre feels cohesive, with the result that the visitor comes away with a feeling that they have acquired some concentrated knowledge, and not just a cursory grasp of a range of subjects. I can imagine that the way in which things are presented here will encourage many people to engage in additional reading and study of the Vikings.

One thing which came through as I made my way through the exhibits was a sense that the people who put it together must have, in addition to extensive knowledge, a great passion about their subject and about the city of York and its rich and fascinating history.

The Jorvik Viking Centre is well worth a visit for anyone interested in history, and also for anyone passing through York.

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