York Castle Museum first opened on 23 April (St George’s Day) 1938, with people queuing around the Eye of York to come and see its ground breaking displays and street scene. Dr John Lamplugh Kirk, a doctor from Pickering, founded the museum. Its unique selling point was Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street which is now world-famous. Since opening in 1938, more than 32 million people have visited the museum.
York Castle Museum was the first of a new kind of museum in Britain. Traditional museum displays organised objects typographically and chronologically – all the objects of one type were displayed together so that the changes through time could be compared.
However, Dr Kirk wanted the focus of his museum to be on the objects, showing them in their original context. The street, workshops and domestic rooms were all created in the museum to show specific objects. As the 20th century progressed, this style of museum display has become firmly established.
Dr Kirk realised his vision for a museum that would transport people back in time, but his health continued to deteriorate, and he died on the 26 February 1940. His legacy was a museum which brought the past to life, and which continues to make memories for generations of visitors.
To mark our 2018 anniversary we hosted a weekend of special events 21-23 April and opened a new display showcasing some of the earliest and more unusual items which were collected by Dr John Kirk. The display will be in place for the rest of the year.