Celebrating 80 Years of York Castle Museum

Celebrating 80 Years of York Castle Museum

York Castle Museum first opened on 23 April (St George’s Day) 1938, with people queuing around the Eye of York to come and see its ground breaking displays and street scene.

Dr John Lamplugh Kirk, a doctor from Pickering, founded the museum. Its unique selling point was Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street which is now world-famous. Since opening in 1938, more than 32 million people have visited the museum.

York Castle Museum was the first of a new kind of museum in Britain. Traditional museum displays organised objects typographically and chronologically – all the objects of one type were displayed together so that the changes through time could be compared.

However, Dr Kirk wanted the focus of his museum to be on the objects, showing them in their original context. The street, workshops and domestic rooms were all created in the museum to show specific objects. As the 20th century progressed, this style of museum display has become firmly established.

Dr Kirk realised his vision for a museum that would transport people back in time, but his health continued to deteriorate, and he died on the 26 February 1940. His legacy was a museum which brought the past to life, and which continues to make memories for generations of visitors.

To mark our 2018 anniversary we’re hosting a weekend of special events plus a new display showing some of the earliest and more unusual items which were collected by Dr John Kirk.

Birthday Weekend – Special Activities

Meet Kirk on Kirkgate – 21-23 April, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm
Discover the origins and of our world-famous street with costumed actors playing the roles of museum founder Dr John Kirk and former curator Violet Rodgers.

Traditional Party Crafts – 21 and 22 April, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm
Join in with traditional birthday crafts and play pin the tail on the donkey!

Chocolate Celebrations – 21-23 April, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm
Explore the history of chocolate and watch demonstrations of tempering as we make special 80th birthday treats – you might even get to try some! Free with admission, no need to book.

We Need Your Photos!

We have a fantastic archive of photographs from the very beginnings of York Castle Museum and through its 80 year history. We’ll be sharing some of the most unusual and interesting shots on the York Past and Present Facebook page and on our blog.

We’d also love to see your pictures! Post them on Twitter @YorkCastle or share them to our Facebook page here. During our anniversary weekend, we’d love to see visitors taking a selfie on our Victorian street, Kirkgate, and sharing it online using #KirkIt – here’s our founder Dr Kirk showing how it’s done!