Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum was one of the first purpose-built museums in the country when it was opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.

It offers an impressive range of collections, from Roman archaeology to 15th-century jewellery. The building is surrounded by ten acres of beautiful botanic gardens, planted at the same time the museum was built.

It reopened on 1 August 2010 following a nine-month, £2 million refurbishment project called Letting in the Light, which saw it join nine other museums on the long list for the Art Fund Prize 2011.

The museum takes a perhaps unusual approach to visitor interaction, according to Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller. As one of the judges for the Art Fund Prize 2011, he commented on his BBC Radio 4 podcast, while standing on a mosaic at York: 'it's so unusual that you're allowed to interact with objects like this; but this museum seems to encourage it, and they're not afraid of the public touching things – within reason, obviously'.

Permanent collections

Yorkshire Museum's collection of nearly one million archaeological finds extends from early prehistoric tools through to 20th-century artefacts. The Roman Collection is particularly strong, and features a statue of the Roman god Mars, which commands the entrance hall, and the tombstone of Lucius Duccius Rufinus, Standard Bearer of the Ninth Legion, as well as a head of human hair, preserved in a Roman burial, all found in York.

Some of the finest medieval architectural and monastic material in England comes from St Mary's Abbey – the ruins of which form the surrounds of the museum – particularly a series of 12th-century, life-size statues of saints and prophets.

Over the last 180 years, the Yorkshire Museum has amassed a biology collection which now contains more than 200,000 specimens. It includes a vast and scientifically important collection representing the fauna and flora of Yorkshire, as well as impressive examples of extinct species such as the Great Auk and New Zealand's giant flightless bird, the Moa.

Art Funded works

One of the star attractions at Yorkshire Museum is the Middleham Jewel, which the Art Fund helped the museum to acquire in 1992. Dating from around 1460, this gold and sapphire pendant, displaying the Holy Trinity and scenes from the Nativity, was saved for the nation as a result of a national campaign and public appeal.

One of the more unusual items in the Yorkshire museum is a 9th-century fitting in the form of an animal's head. The large tongue protruding from the ram-like head creates an attachment loop, while the two ears or horns function as sockets. Blue glass eyes give the creature a terrifying stare.

Visitor information

The ten acres of botanical gardens extending down to the River Ouse are the product of the museum's 19th-century origins. Created by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in 1830, the gardens were designed by Sir John Murray Naysmith and today include specimens from all over the world, including a splendid Monkey Puzzle tree and an Indian Chestnut.

While walking in the gardens, visitors will also stumble across a variety of building structures, ranging from the remains of an 11th-century abbey to a Roman fortress, as well as a medieval timbered guesthouse.

While the museum offers no café, you can buy snacks in the shop or bring your own picnic to eat in the peaceful surroundings of the botanical gardens. The shop also stocks the usual selection of souvenirs, books and gifts, with a particular slant toward all things archaeological.


Art we've helped buy at Yorkshire Museum

Venue details

Yorkshire Museum Museum Gardens, York North Yorkshire YO1 7FR 01904 687687 www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £6.81)

Daily, 10am – 5pm

Closed 25, 26 Dec and 1 Jan