What was remarkable for me was the mix of people that made this effort to understand what is a relatively difficult and obscure aspect of the city’s history. The walk did get plenty of publicity but it still takes genuine interest to get people to venture outdoors on a rainy January afternoon.
This short video gives an exclusive peek at what on earth is going on inside York’s oldest museum. The Yorkshire Museum is having its first total refurbishment since it opened in 1830. As you’ll see, there’s still a bit to do but we are totally committed to reopening on 1 August, Yorkshire Day – this year!
It was a good night for York all round as the Theatre Royal and National Railway Museum also won awards. And to top it all, prizes were handed out by our very own Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, who only seemed to lose concentration a little when Pub of the Year was announced (Ye Old Sun Inn at Colton, in case you’re interested).
Every recession brings new opportunities, though usually for scrap merchants, insolvency practitioners and other scavenger occupations. York, England, has opened up some of those opportunities to the wider creative community.
Like most places York’s retail economy has been hit hard lately. The sight of dingy, empty shops is a real problem for a city that relies on its picturesque streets to attract more than 4m visitors a year.
A call went out for ideas and York Museums Trust responded with ‘Windows of Opportunity’. The thinking was: we want to change how these shops look but it’s very tricky to get permission to work inside them, so let’s just work with the surface. Vinyl was our solution. We would cover them up with giant, printed vinyls, like the ones advertising the new exhibition at the Castle Museum.
But what to put on them? These would be big, visible statements on the high street. Initially we played around with using actual statements – literature, poetry, quotations – but then broadened it out to any digital imagery.
We also broadened the pool of potential contributors by going world wide and inviting anyone to pitch in with their design. ‘WOO’, as it became known, was put on the web, initially on flickr and recently on a dedicated site.
The response has been excellent – dozens of brilliant ideas, all very well executed. All of them go on display on the website and a few of them win the ‘prize’ of being posted up in the real world. For the launch we chose three very different pieces of work to demonstrate the potential range of the project, and were ready to go.
But getting the first vinyls actually onto the windows was less straight-forward. It took weeks of haggling with various parties to get the permissions sorted out. In the meantime two of the empty shops found tenants. So another round of permissions was needed. It was sorted eventually and the first three windows were dressed at the end of August, to a universally positive response.
Funding has come from the City Council and the tourism body, Visit York, have put in a lot of the leg-work. You can see why they’re involved, but what’s in it for the Museums Trust?
The answer is a few different things. Some good publicity, of course, and some close working with key partners for the benefit of the city, which can’t be bad.
But what it also does is show that when museums use their traditional knowledge and skills to step outside their walls the results can be really interesting. A world of opportunities awaits…
York is busy right now. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the city and August is a very popular time to make the pilgrimage. And pilgrimage is a good word for it, ever since early medieval days people have travelled to the city from far and wide.These ‘tourists’ as they are now called have always been an important part of the city’s economy.
What is surprising though, is just how many of our visitors come from the UK rather than overseas. Even before the recession introduced us to the ‘staycation’ (Brits holidaying at home), 80% of York’s visitors were British.The new Prison exhibition at the Castle Museum is proving popular too, but not quite as popular as when the museum first opened….