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Hands-on insight into York's history

Posted on 23 June 2011

From the humorous to the horrific, University of York students will help people of all ages explore York's fascinating past at the Yorkshire Museum this Sunday.

Visitors to University of York Sunday will have chance to handle Viking ice-skates and medieval stained glass, take part in newly-designed walking trails and listen to stories behind the fantastic trees in the Museum Gardens.

Visitors to the Yorkshire Museum on Sunday will be given a hands-on insight into York’s past with the chance to handle unusual objects such as a Viking ice-skates, a ‘Dragon’ stone and Roman hair accessories

Professor Helen Weinstein

The event on Sunday, 26 June from 11am to 4pm, celebrates the success of the University’s Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) student intern programme which gives postgraduate students the chance to use their research and writing skills to communicate the past to the public in innovative ways.

It is one of a number of community events being held as part of the first York Festival of Ideas, a partnership between the University of York, York Theatre Royal, the National Centre for Early Music, York St John University and York Museums Trust, which runs until Sunday, 10 July.

Based on the themes of ‘Beckett, the Body and the Bible’, the York Festival of Ideas brings together a range of world-class speakers, exhibitions, and artistic performances exploring a series of intriguing links between past and present as well as showcasing contemporary ideas, arts and culture.

A highlight of University of York Sunday on 26 June will be a new city trail exploring the history of the Jews in York – from the tragic murder of Jews at Clifford’s Tower in 1190, through to the 13th century Jewish resettlement of the city and including new research that takes the story of the relationship between the Jewish community and York up to the present.  IPUP interns will show an illustrated presentation about the history of the Jews at the Yorkshire Museum and there will also be one hour walking tours. 

Other activities include a new interpretation centre and leaflets at St Leonard’s Hospital that introduces visitors to the historical and botanic sites of the Museum Gardens, a demonstration of electronic painting of St Mary’s Abbey and a child guide to the Gardens with Sammy the Squirrel. Visitors will have the chance to sample the sensory experiences of handling Viking and Roman objects, while family entertainment in the Museum’s Roman Galleries will include story-telling workshops and poetry.

Over 60 IPUP student interns are working on a series of interpretation sessions, trails and web products, across the city and beyond, all designed to encourage the public to explore the past. In York, key cultural institutions including York Museums Trust, York Minster, Fairfax House, the National Trust and the National Railway Museum are all tapping into the interns’ talents. 

Beth Williams, who is studying for an MA in Cultural Heritage Management, said: “The internship programme has been a wonderful opportunity to see how the heritage sector works. My internship has been with York Museums Trust and it’s been brilliant to see how the organisation works from the inside. It’s helped me to see how we can better engage with the public.”

Professor Helen Weinstein, Director of IPUP, said: “Visitors to the Yorkshire Museum on Sunday will be given a hands-on insight into York’s past with the chance to handle unusual objects such as a Viking ice-skates, a ‘Dragon’ stone and Roman hair accessories. It will be a great opportunity for our IPUP interns to test out their innovative programme. As a city, York has unique cultural resources, and arranging for our students to work on these practical projects has been a hugely valuable experience on all sides. It has been enormously satisfying and several of our students have used their intern placements to win jobs in the heritage and media sectors.

“The intern programme allows students to use their skills beyond the world of academia, preparing them for the world of work. York residents and visitors also clearly benefit as the interns help them gain a better understanding of York’s rich and varied history.” 

Janet Barnes, Chief Executive Officer of York Museums Trust, said: “University of York Sunday is a great way to celebrate the partnership between Yorkshire Museums Trust and IPUP and the excellent contribution of IPUP’s student interns. It is so impressive to see the enthusiasm and creativity of the students in testing out new and innovative ways to engage the public in all aspects of our city’s past.”

Admission to the University of York Sunday at the Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens on Sunday, 26 June from 11am to 4pm is free to those showing a York Card or a Student Union Card. Otherwise, normal admission charges apply. For details visit

Notes to editors:

  • The Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) intern programme involves postgraduate students from the University’s Departments of History, History of Art and Archaeology, and MA students from the Centres for Medieval Studies, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and Eighteenth Century Studies. All have been inducted at IPUP through a series of seminars and workshops that explore how they can communicate their research skills to the public. For further information visit
  • Further information about the Yorkshire Museum at
  • Further information about the York Festival of Ideas at

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