YORK’S oldest museum is to get a £2 million makeover.
When it reopens on August 1 next year, following a nine-month refurb, visitors to the Yorkshire Museum will be able to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, “swim” with the Loch Ness Monster, and come face to face with “real” Romans.
Virtually the whole interior of the Grade I listed Georgian museum will be stripped out. Natural light will be able to flood through the ceiling skylights, modern interior walls will be removed to create a more open feel, and there will be views from inside the museum of St Mary’s Abbey just outside.
The centrepiece of the new-look museum will be the central hall. Visitors will come face to face with a 2,000-year-old life-size Roman statue of the god Mars as they enter. In the centre of the floor will be a huge map of the Roman Empire, that they can sit around and even walk across.
Most of the rest of the museum will be divided up into three permanent galleries. These will be:
* Extinct: A Way Of Life. Visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, fossilised in stone and set into the floor. Against the walls will hang giant fossils of extinct marine reptiles from the Yorkshire coast – including a giant ichthyosaur and a plesiosaur, generally thought to be the “model” for the Loch Ness Monster. The gallery will tell the story of extinction – from the death of the dinosaurs to the threat to species endangered today.
* Eboracum: Face To Face With The Romans. The exhibition will focus on telling the story of real people who lived in York in Roman times – including that of a standard bearer of the lost Ninth legion. The museum has his tombstone, complete with a picture of the young Roman and biographical details.
* York: The Power And The Glory. The museum’s basement will be completely opened up for the third major gallery. Windows looking out over St Mary’s Abbey will be uncovered, and will be fronted with stained glass, that will flood the gallery with coloured light. The gallery will tell the story of York in medieval times, from the Anglian period, when the city was capital of Northumbria, through Viking times to late medieval York. The Yorkshire Museums Trust, which runs the city’s museums, has already secured £1.4 million of funding for the project – half of it from City of York Council, and the remainder through funding applications.
Curator of archaeology Andrew Morrison said he was “quietly confident” the museum would be able to secure the rest.
Janet Barnes, the York Museums Trust’s chief executive, said the refurbishment would create a museum in which to “proudly show off York’s treasures”.
“The Yorkshire Museum is home to a thousand stories which can be told through some of the most significant archaeological finds and scientific collections in Europe,” she said.
“It is the aim of York Museums Trust to give such objects and stories their deserved place.”
Work is scheduled to start in November. The museum will be closed until it reopens to the public on August 1 – Yorkshire Day – in 2010.
Mr Morrison and the museum’s head of learning, Amy Parkinson, will be at the building in Museum Gardens from 1pm to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday – Residents First weekend – to answer questions.
* Inside the new Yorkshire Museum: see tomorrow’s Press for more details of the £2 million makeover.
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