York Minster is going through a renaissance – a big claim for a building that’s been on the go to close for 1400 years. With a £20m budget (including a £10.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund) window panels are being restored, access is being improved, conservation projects are under way and new exhibitions are popping up throughout the building.
Revealing York Minster: Worth a visit!
The latest exhibition, Revealing York Minster, aims to showcase how the Minster fits into the wider history of Eboracum (that’s York to you and me). When it opened at the end of May 2013, just in time for the half term holidays, the Minster enjoyed a 10% increase in visitors compared to the previous year, indicating that this is a real draw for tourists.
This exhibition is part of a series of attractions that now pepper the building. This includes Stone by Stone which highlights the work undertaken by stone masons at the Minster and Let There Be Light which looks into the techniques used by stained glass restorers. There is also of course the Orb, which may look like a giant shiny Minstrel that someone has taken a chunk out of, but is in fact a state of the art exhibition space. According to the website this “elliptical treasure house of stained glass” showcases some world’s most important medieval art. One of the panels on display changes each month to highlight the areas of the Great East Window that have been conserved. And best of all – you can actually keep up to date with the advances of the restoration as your £10 entrance fee buys you access to the Minster for a whole year.
Wonderful artefacts. Wonderful stories. Wonderful Minster
You can find the newest exhibition down in the depths of the undercroft. Visitors entering Revealing York Minster are met with dark, winding corridors full of interactives, collection items and well thought out interpretation. When we say it’s dark though, we really do mean that – those who are afraid of the dark beware….
Laid out to tell the story of York and the Minster in a linear historical fashion, visitors are transported through the city on “a heroic, historic and human journey” (I would have said ‘an heroic’ personally but that’s splitting hairs). Following a timeline through the exhibition space I was met with images from past excavations, well thought-out display panels, Roman archaeological remains and even the great Horn of Ulf held up by disembodied hands. The inclusion of religious relics and garb illustrates the fine line that the Minster must tread between a working religious centre, an historic monument and a visitor attraction.
The dazzling ‘Horn of Ulf’ on show at York Minster
Whilst the dazzling array of interactives all seemed to work – one did leave a little to be desired. A touch screen map of the Minster is provided, with various members of staff and clergy immortalised by footprints walking around the plan. It is designed to show the variety of people who make the running of this historic religious site possible. The touch screen map allows you to find out more about each person, though sadly the video clips had no audio or subtitles and so made little sense – which was a shame as I’d have loved to find out more about the Minster Police.
At the exhibition exit, visitors encounter a huge screen filled with detailed shots of the Minster and people staring up at them looking awe inspired. As you climb the steps out of the undercroft and your eyes readjust to the light, you end up mimicking these people as you too are stunned by not on the magnificence of the building but of the vast history it represents.