Jorvik Viking Centre turns 30, opens outdoor loo

Still on the go… a Viking tries out the old loo in Coppergate. Photographs: Richard McDougall
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Still on the go… a Viking tries out the old loo in Coppergate. Photographs: Richard McDougall

Still on the go… a Viking tries out the old loo in Coppergate. Photographs: Richard McDougall

viking-looThirty years ago today (April 14), the Jorvik Viking Centre opened its doors to the public and changed the nature of museums forever.

And what better way to celebrate than by liberating one of its most famous features – the Viking toilet?

Brought out of the underground attraction for the first time, the millennium old latrine was placed in the Coppergate Centre for the day.

Members of the public are welcome to be photographed on it, trying to recreate the famous expression of the Viking who usually occupies it…

Museum pioneers

Jorvik launched on Saturday, April 14, 1984. It followed the Coppergate Dig, the archaeological investigation that discovered the remains of Viking houses and streets superbly preserved by the waterlogged soil conditions under the modern street.

The York Archaeological Trust wanted to present the finds in a new and accessible way.

Their decision to use “time cars” to take visitors through a recreation of 10th century Coppergate changed the way that history was interpreted in museums and attractions around the world.

A new wave of immersive experiences follow the success of Jorvik, although few match the York attraction’s popularity, which continues to draw around half a million visitors per year.

“The way the Coppergate development was built enabled the attraction to sit in the exact spot where these Viking remains were found,” said director of attractions, Sarah Maltby.

“So we can genuinely assert that if you were able to travel back in time 1,000 years to this very spot, this is what it would have looked like.”

Jorvik has undergone two major refurbishments in the last 30 years, including a redesign of the Viking streets to bring them into line with the findings of the latest archaeological research.

Faces replaced

Scary… two boys say boo to a Viking

Scary… two boys say boo to a Viking

Another change was to the Vikings themselves. The faces of original models which were artistically sculpted were gradually replaced by faces generated by forensic software which can recreate how the Viking inhabitants of York would have looked.

“We’re fast approaching a stage where these faces are not simply recreated on a computer screen, but can actually be ‘printed’ in three dimensions – technology that we could not have dreamed of having in the early 1980s when Jorvik Viking Centre was being designed,” said Sarah.

As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, Jorvik will host a summer exhibition of memorabilia from the last three decades, from the early leaflets and posters to souvenir coins struck for young visitors who now return with their own children.