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JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG and Barley Hall prepare to re-open

Written by on June 23, 2020

York’s Vikings, interactive archaeology centre and medieval townhouse set to welcome visitors from 11 July 2020

Three of York’s top visitor attractions have revealed their opening plans as the government relaxes Covid-19 restrictions for museums and attractions. JORVIK Viking Centre, Barley Hall and DIG: An Archaeological Adventure will re-open for visitors on Saturday 11 July, with slightly different experiences on offer at each location to ensure a safe, engaging visit for everyone.

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“When people are visiting attractions, they want it to be a fun and pleasant experience, and the risks associated with the pandemic mean that people are now vigilant about so many things that we took for granted before, particularly how close people get and how clean everything is. These have been the first things that we’ve addressed across all three attractions, and once these are in place, making sure that the experience is as good or even better than before,” comments Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust.

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One of the positive changes that will be seen across all three attraction will see the abolition of long queues – particularly relevant for JORVIK Viking Centre which regularly has a queue around St Mary’s Square during holiday times. Prebooking is essential across all attractions, with timed tickets and extended opening hours to enable visitors to maintain social distancing. “Even with the relaxation to ‘one metre plus’ social distancing, our attractions will initially stick to two metres – we want people to feel extra safe, and have a natural flow through each site, whilst still being able to talk to our Vikings and other specialist staff. This will mean that there are no crowds around display cases or galleries, so the whole experience should be pleasant and relaxed. In fact, for locals who might normally be put off by queuing and crowds, this is the perfect time to rediscover York’s Viking heritage.”

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Cleaning and sanitation procedures have been stepped up, too, with visitors encouraged to use hand sanitiser at regular intervals during a visit as well as procedures to regularly disinfect the ride capsules. Ventilation using the air conditioning system will ensure that fresh air is channelled into JORVIK at all times and all visitors will have their temperature remotely taken when entering the building. At DIG, where interactive activities are an integral part of the experience, techniques such as fogging will be used to regularly disinfect the artificial soil, with visitors given disposable gloves and face masks to wear as they unearth artefacts. Similarly, ventilation will be improved, temperature tests taken on arrival and a one-way system imposed.

A visit to Barley Hall is slightly more prescriptive than previously, with visitors asked to follow a set route which enables them to see everything whilst maintaining social distancing. Visitors will use the normal entrance and follow a route through the medieval townhouse that finishes at an alternative exit to avoid visitors passing in close proximity, still with plenty of chances to chat with the house’s volunteers at a safe distance and find out about this beautiful building.

Managers have been working on the re-opening plans for some weeks, and are pleased that restrictions are lifting before the key summer season. “Many of our visitor-facing staff have been on furlough, and we’ve been waiting for confirmation of the opening date and details of restrictions, but our plans were already advanced, and many of the infrastructure changes completed ahead of the announcement,” adds Sarah. “We will bring back staff from 1 July, and then we have time to train them and test our procedures fully before we welcome visitors back on Saturday 11 July. We may have to make a few tweaks along the way as we see how the public reacts, but we’re confident that we can once again deliver world-class experiences for everyone.”

Re-opening the visitor attractions is crucial not only to help restart York’s tourism industry, but also for York Archaeological Trust, the charity which relies on income from the attractions to continue its world-renowned programme of archaeological research and charitable educational activity. “We were able to secure finance to cover operating costs whilst the attractions have been closed, including supporting our ‘Discover from Home’ learning projects, and income from the summer months will be essential for repaying this. We’ve also launched a fundraising drive for £30,000 to help cover the costs of reopening safely, and our supporters are already being very generous in moving us towards that goal.”

For the time being, the JORVIK Group’s two attractions on the city walls will remain closed; very limited access and small spaces within The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar and The Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar, as well as a lack of handwashing facilities, make visits impossible.

Prebooking from Saturday 11 July 2020 is now open; visit jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk to reserve a timeslot.