Search Museum Next

York museum transforms empty shop window into 24-hour museum

A former bookstore has been turned into a 24-hour museum display in York

JORVIK Viking Centre has turned a former bookstore in the heart of the historic city of York into a 24-hour museum display offering daytime and evening passers-by a taste of Norse heritage.

The initiative is part of Archaeology Live, a new online and offline festival being hosted by York Archaeology and The JORVIK Group, which believes the idea could be rolled out in other locations with empty shops.

Portfolio of 24-hour exhibitions

In response to this, the museum, dedicated to the city’s Viking history, has created an inclusive portfolio of 24-hour exhibitions created specifically for empty retail units that will be made available to hire by other towns and cities that want to inject a bit of life into their high streets.

They will use historic content relating directly to the location where they are installed, including artefacts, replicas, digital interpretation and 3D virtual reconstructions to explore the past within contemporary themes.

Historic replica objects on display at the 24-hour museum

Themed around travel and sustainability the first exhibition ‘Eco friendly Invaders’ explores how the Vikings pursued environmentally friendly activities, including policies of recycling and widely using natural products to create their unique products and way of life.

Passers-by can follow a QR code to a dedicated web page that features video, photographs and an explanation of how the Vikings made use of natural materials around them to fabricate objects such as combs, bowls and knives.

Transferring the idea to other cities and towns

“We would like to transfer the idea to other city and town centres where councils are increasingly having to deal with finding new ways to fill empty retail units across the urban landscape in the UK today,” said Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for the JORVIK Group. “We believe that our 24-hour museum could become a viable option for town centres across the UK, helping to bring high streets back to life.”

This offer would sit alongside JORVIK Group’s touring exhibitions portfolio, which has provided unique and affordable temporary exhibitions, created by the team behind JORVIK Viking Centre, to museums from Thurso in the north of Scotland through to Norfolk, Cumbria and the West Midlands.

Future exhibitions

“Future exhibitions will use medieval medicine, health practices and living conditions to reflect on health and well-being concerns in today’s society, and our 24-Hour Museum with a Roman theme will explore how migration, identity and diversity in the Roman age in Britain created societies that compare to our inclusive communities of today.”

Sarah said that even as her team was setting up the displays, members of the public were stopping and looking, so she was confident it is going to be a popular addition to York’s street-scene.

“The windows will be lit 24 hours a day, and with people able to access the interpretation through their mobile phone, we’re looking forward to seeing how well this is received. It would be wonderful to think that this idea could be implemented across the city – or indeed, in vacant units on just about any town’s high street – to add some culture and vibrancy.”

The display opened yesterday (26 August) and will be open until early September, with the unit being offered to the JORVIK Group free of charge while empty.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

Subscribe to the latest museum thinking

Fresh ideas from museums around the globe in your inbox each week