York, United Kingdom Yorkshire Museum


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The Yorkshire Museum is a museum in York, England. It is the home of the Cawood sword, and has four permanent collections, covering biology, geology, archaeology and astronomy.


The museum building in the early 1900s

from Wikipedia by Sydney Harold Smith (or collaborators on his behalf) Public domain

The museum was founded by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society to accommodate their geological and archaeological collections, and was originally housed in Ousegate, York, until the site became too small. In 1828, the society received by royal grant, 10acre of land formerly belonging to St Mary’s Abbey for the purposes of building a new museum. The main building of the museum is called the Yorkshire Museum; it was designed by William Wilkins in a Greek Revival style and is a Grade I listed building. It was officially opened in February 1830, which makes it one of the longest established museums in England. A condition of the royal grant was that the land surrounding the museum building should be a botanic gardens and one was created in the 1830s. The botanic gardens are now known as the Museum Gardens. On 26 September 1831, the inaugural meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held at the Yorkshire Museum.
The Tempest Anderson Hall was built in 1912, as an annex to the museum, and is an early example of a reinforced concrete building. It is used as a conference venue and lecture theatre.
In 1960, the museum and gardens were given in trust to York City Council, the successor of which, the City of York Council, set up the York Museums Trust in 2002, to manage the York Castle Museum, York Art Gallery, the Yorkshire Museum and the Museum Gardens.
The museum closed in November 2009 for a major refurbishment and reopened on Yorkshire Day on 1 August 2010. The £2 million scheme was largely carried out by the museum's own staff, who restructured and redecorated the interior of the building. As of January 2016, the museum has the following permanent exhibits: "Roman York – Meet the People of the Empire", "Capital of the North" (Anglian, Viking and Medieval York), and "Extinct: A way of life" a "fun, family-oriented gallery" featuring fossils, skeletons and animal specimens. There are also temporary exhibitions and a historic library and learning space.


The four permanent collections at the museum all have English designated collection status, which means they are "pre-eminent collections of national and international importance". The collection began in the 1820s, with the collection of animal bones and fossils from Kirkdale Cave.


The biology collection contains 200,000 specimens, including both fauna and flora, with the majority of the collection made up of insects. There are two stuffed specimens of the extinct great auk, an almost complete skeleton of an extinct moa, and a large collection of specimens from the Yorkshire region including the remains of elephants, cave bears and hyena from Kirkdale Cave dated to the Quaternary period, around 125,000 years.


The geology collection contains over 112,500 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils. Fossils make up the majority of the collection numbering over 100,000 samples, and include important specimens from the Carboniferous, Mesozoic and Tertiary periods.


York Observatory

from Wikipedia by Kaly99 CC BY-SA 3.0

The astronomy collection is mainly kept in the observatory in the museum gardens with some telescopes kept at the Castle Museum in York. The observatory is staffed by volunteers.


The final known inscription of the Ninth legion

from Wikipedia by Photographed by: York Museums Trust Staff CC BY-SA 4.0

The archaeology collection has close to a million objects that date from around 500,000 BC to the 20th century. Most of the objects from the Roman, Anglo Scandinavian and Medieval periods are from the York and Yorkshire area. Following the 2010 refit of the museum, the first gallery displayed parts of the Roman collection, focusing on objects from Eboracum . A statue of the Roman God Mars is prominently displayed, and there is an interactive display describing the lives of some of the Romans whose remains have been found in York. The final record of the famous lost Roman legion, the ninth legion, is on display as part of the Roman gallery. The stone inscription, which has been dated to Trajan's twelfth year as emperor, between 10 December 107 and 9 December 108, commemorates the legion's rebuilding in stone of the south-eastern wall of Eboracum's legionary fortress. The BBC reports that "Experts have described it the finest example of Romano British inscription in existence".
The museum houses some collections of forged prehistoric tools by the Yorkshire forger, Flint Jack.


The museum has 'Finds Days' in the main Yorkshire Museum building where members of the national British Portable Antiquities Scheme and museum staff will identify objects brought to them by members of the public. The information is also recorded to help build up a more complete archaeological picture of the past.


The museum has hosted many exhibitions since its inception.


The 1976 exhibition "The Viking Kingdom of York" was seen by over 78,000 visitors.


The Coppergate helmet was first put onto display in a permanent gallery space in 1980 following a £30,000 grant from the British Museum as part of the "International Viking Exhibition".
A third successful Viking exhibition, "The Vikings in England" was opened by the Prince of Wales on 30th March 1982 and was seen by over 235,000 visitors before it closed in October of the same year. This exhibition was awarded the European Museum of the Year Special Exhibition Award as a result of the presentation of the exhibition in the Museum and for additional educational projects organised by the then Keeper Elizabeth Hartley.


The 2006 exhibition Constantine the Great: York's Roman Emperor was described as "the most important archaeological-historical loan exhibition to have been held in a provincial British museum". It attracted over 58,000 visitors.


The facial reconstruction of King Richard III was displayed in the museum from July-October 2013 as part of a national tour.
A Shakespearean First Folio was on display in the Medieval gallery in 2014.
In 2015 the museum first displayed the oldest Sauropod fossil from the Yorkshire coast, nicknamed 'Alan the Dinosaur'.
In 2016 a recently discovered, unique Mesolithic pendant from Star Carr first went on public display.
In 2017 the Museum hosted the first stage of a touring exhibition titled 'Viking: Rediscover the Legend', opened by Alice Roberts. The exhibition is co-curated by the British Museum and will subsequently travel to the Atkinson Art Gallery and Library in Southport, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Norwich Castle Museum, and the University of Nottingham. The exhibition was awarded the 'Excellence in Media Arts' award at the 2017 York Culture Awards.
In April 2018, Yorkshire's Jurassic World exhibition, including marine and land fossils from Yorkshire and elsewhere, was opened by David Attenborough.

Keepers and Curators

The museum has had many keepers, curators and honorary curators over its lifetime.


  • John Phillips - Keeper (1826-1844)

  • Edward Charlesworth - Keeper (1844-1858)

  • Charles Wakefield - Keeper (1858, 1870-1878)

  • William Dallas - Keeper (1858-1868)

  • John-Clay Purves - Keeper (1878-1880)

  • Walter Keeping - Keeper (1880-1883)

  • Henry Maurice Platnauer - Keeper (1883-1904)

  • Oxley Grabham - Keeper (1904-1919)

  • Walter Edward Collinge - Keeper (1921-1940)

  • George Willmot - Keeper (1950-1970)

  • Elizabeth Hartley - Keeper of Archaeology (1971-2007)

  • Barbara Pyrah - Keeper of Geology

Honorary Curators

  • Charles Wellbeloved - Honorary Curator of Antiquities

  • Walter Harvey Brook - Honorary Curator of Medieval Architecture


Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap, Wikivoyage


  • +44 1904 687687
  • Website
  • 10:00-17:00
  • Museum Gardens


NoneBest museum in York, hands down

Yorkshire Museum