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Treasure our Treasures
Historic City of York Celebrates International Museum Day

York’s museums will celebrate the city’s rich history starting this weekend to mark International Museum Day (May 18)¹. For the first time social media will be used by the city’s tourism organisation Visit York to establish York as one of the country’s most important cities for its rich collection of cultural and historic artefacts. From Britain’s biggest Ichthyosaur fossil to possibly the oldest object on earth – the Middlesbrough Meteorite, York is home to many of the country’s rarest treasures.

Images of some of the many thousands of historic, unusual and even unexpected exhibits will be posted on-line via Facebook. Virtual visitors will be invited to comment and share their own images related to York’s past. Through International Museum Day, Visit York will help people discover that each of the objects and exhibits they’ll find at a museum in the city is just a touch-point to revealing a fascinating story.

Kay Hyde, Head of Communications at Visit York said, ‘York has more museums and attractions than any other city of its size. They record the history and stories of Vikings to Victorians and Richard III to railways. By creating a ‘virtual museum’ to mark International Museum Day we can give visitors a flavour of the rare exhibits on show in the city.’

Some of the images to be shared, starting on National Museum Day will include:

• The huge Ichthyosaur fossil is the biggest of its type in Britain

More than 20 feet long, this fossilised remains of a marine reptile were found in the Jurassic rocks of the Yorkshire Coast in 1857. It is very rare to find one as well preserved and complete as this one exhibited at the Yorkshire Museum. Ichthyosaurs were some of the largest sea predators, very similar to dolphins in shape and form.

• Possibly the oldest artefact you’ll ever see the Middlesbrough Meteorite.

This amazing object exhibited at the Yorkshire Museum is around four and a half billion years old. It was formed at the same time as the earth as well as the solar system and is the only example of such a meteorite in the country outside of the Natural History Museum. The meteorite came to earth on March 14 1881. Workmen at a railway siding in Middlesbrough heard a 'rushing or roaring' sound overhead, followed by a thud, as they found the fossil buried in the embankment nearby.

• Captain Scott of the Antarctic’s tin of cocoa

This treasured home comfort was found beside the frozen explorer’s remains. It survived one of the world’s most famed and daring expeditions and is now back in the city it was made in. See it at York’s CHOCOLATE Story.

• A lock of steam locomotive designer Robert Stephenson’s hair believed to have been taken at the time of his death in 1859.

Robert Stephenson was the only son of railway innovator George Stephenson. The design principles of his trailblazing steam locomotive ‘Rocket’ were embodied in all subsequent steam locomotives. The lock of hair can be found at the National Railway Museum.

• Unusual artefacts made by German and Turkish prisoners of war

Including a glass bead snake from WW1, a ship in a bottle, a cigarette case made in aluminium and a duck toy. These items can be seen at Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum which is housed within an original Prisoner of War Camp.

• The Escrick Ring

This nationally important sapphire ring, thought to have been owned by royalty in the 5th and 6th century, was found in Escrick, a village near York in 2009, by a metal detecting enthusiast. Archaeologists say that nothing like the Escrick Ring from that period has ever been found in the UK before.

• The Austin 7

One of the most popular cars ever produced for the British market (during 1922 and 1939) can be seen at Eden Camp Modern Military Theme Museum.

• World War Two Blue Kit Kat

In 1941 KIT KAT got a case of the blues when shortages of milk saw a plain chocolate KIT KAT sold in a blue wrapper – the familiar red wrapper and milk chocolate returned in 1949. This and other chocolate rarities are on show at York’s CHOCOLATE Story.

Janet Barnes, Head of York Museums Trust said, ‘Museums play a vital role in bringing the past to life and linking different cultures together. King George V1 famously said ‘the history of York is the history of England’ and York’s seven million visitors, who come from all over the world, can learn so much about Britain’s people and culture through our many museums..”

Other popular museums and visitor attractions in York include: York Minster, the Jorvik Viking Centre, the Richard III Museum, York Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Air Museum, the York Army Museum, York Dungeon, the Bar Convent, the Treasurer’s House, Barley Hall, the Mansion House, Clifford’s Tower and Micklegate Bar Museum.

Visit York is encouraging the nation to take part in National Museum Day by sharing your memories and stories of York in response to the images displayed. Visit from May 18th.

Find out more about York’s museums by visiting, telephone Visit York Information Centre on 01904 550099 or email


Note to Editors:

¹ International Museum Day was first established by The International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 1977 and the purpose of the day is to encourage awareness of the role of museums in the development of societies.

A further ‘Famous Five’ Treasures to be found in York’s Museums:

• A model train collection so big it’s in the Guinness book of records. JP Richards’s spent 55 years of his life making 610 model trains from scratch. He bequeathed them to the National Railway Museum on his death.
• A life-size homage to the Roman God of War – The Statue of Mars. It is the best example of a Roman statue ever found in Britain. (Yorkshire Museum)
• The most outstanding object of the Anglo-Saxon period to survive in Europe - The York Helmet. Dated to approximately 750 to 775, this iron and brass helmet was discovered when struck by the claw of a mechanical digger – luckily the operator stopped to check what had been hit. (Yorkshire Museum)
• One of the finest pieces of Gothic jewellery found in Britain – the Middleham Jewel and Ring. A member of the powerful Neville family whose home was at based at Middleham Castle may possibly have had this fantastic jewellery made by one of London’s famous goldsmiths. (Yorkshire Museum)
• A thousand year old Viking sword, one of the best preserved ever found. (Yorkshire Museum)

High resolution images are available on request. Please email Lois Ackerley, Communications Executive at Visit York, Tel: 01904 554448

For further press information please contact:

Kay Hyde – Head of Communications – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07961 828092

Katie Parsons – Senior Communications Executive – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554436

About Visit York

• Visit York is supported by the City of York Council and over 700 tourism businesses and works in partnership with Visit England and Welcome to Yorkshire.
• Visit York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure and business visitor, and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York. Visit York is responsible for leisure and conference marketing, visitor services (running the city’s Visitor Information Centre), training and ensuring a quality visitor experience.
• Visit York is the driving force of the city’s tourism industry. Key facts:

7.1 million visitors
£443 million total visitor spend
23, 000 jobs