York Museums Trust

Curatorial Enquiries

Our curatorial team have a great deal of expertise about our collections which cover the following areas:

• Archaeology
• Biology
• Costume and textiles
• Decorative arts
• Fine art
• Geology
• Horticulture
• Military history
• Numismatics
• Social history

If you would like to learn more about the collections please visit our online collections page in the first instance. If you wish to know more about an object in the collection or wish to access the collections for research purposes then please click here to contact us, providing as much information as possible about the object and the nature of your query.

We also offer an enquiries and identification service for your objects. We have expertise in the areas outlined above. If you would like us to identify your object then please click here to contact us and to make an appointment. Please provide as much information about the object as you can, including, if possible, a detailed description, a photograph, and the exact location where it was found or bought.

We cannot give advice on items for sale or provide valuations. We also cannot authenticate objects.

The curatorial departments are very busy and may not be able to reply immediately. We will respond as soon as possible acknowledging your enquiry within a month, and will provide a full service within a two month period.

Due to the differing nature of the Trust’s collections and museums, detailed instructions for each area of the collection can be found below:

Archaeology Enquiries

The Yorkshire Museum has curatorial expertise in Archaeology ranging from the Stone Age to the Seventeenth-Century, relating to Yorkshire.

We will identify ceramics, metals (including coins), glass and stone objects. In the case of the latter, we will offer identification where there is clear evidence that it has been shaped by human intervention.

We will not identify:

• Privately purchased objects
• Non-British material
• Material from Scotland

Recently found material with accurate provenance information may be referred to the Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (www.finds.org.uk). This scheme aims to record archaeological objects found by members of the public onto a national open access database.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme runs finds identification days throughout the year:

Find Days for 2016, hosted in the Yorkshire Museum, 10.00 – 13.00.

8th April
3rd June
5th August
7th October
2nd December

Potential objects of treasure, as defined by the Treasure Act 1996, must be reported to the coroner within 14 days of discovery. Our Finds Liaison Officer can advise and facilitate the reporting of treasure.

Treasure is defined as:

• Objects over 300 years of age and comprised of more than 10% precious metal (gold or silver)
• Coin hoards
• Modified precious metal coins
• Prehistoric metal hoards.

Given the demand, material left as a Portable Antiquities Scheme enquiry, excluding potential treasure, will be available for collection in a maximum of four months, although the timescale may be shorter dependent upon workloads.

Art Enquiries

York Art Gallery has particular strengths in post-medieval painting in Western Europe, late 19th century and early 20th century British illustrations plus topographical prints and watercolours of York.

In addition the collection also has a small number of Japanese prints and British sculpture. We also have curatorial expertise in British studio ceramics and English glass of the 18th and 19th centuries.

All oil paintings in public collections are viewable on the BBC Your Paintings website, including those in York Art Gallery.

Access to Fine Art collection is by appointment only on the first and third Friday of each month.

Access to the Ceramic collection is by appointment only on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

For research requests please fill in an Information for Researchers Form.

Further information for researchers can be downloaded here.

For loans and enquiries please fill in an Enquiry Form.

History Enquiries

Unfortunately our History Enquiries Service at York Castle Museum, which includes social history, military history and costume and textiles is suspended until 1st April 2016 due to the preparation of a forthcoming exhibition.

This means all object enquiries, access for photography and research requests are also suspended. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience during this busy period.

Natural Science Enquiries

Our Biology and Geology collections cover a huge range of specimens, fossils, rocks, and other historic objects, spanning the whole of geological time through to the present day, and focussed on Yorkshire.

We welcome enquiries on our own collections, and will identify/assist with queries on other objects related to the areas outlined above.

We will not normally assist with objects from outside Yorkshire, or those which have been privately purchased. In the event that we do not have appropriate in-house expertise for your particular query, we will endeavour to give details of other sources that may be helpful.

In the first instance, please contact us including as much detail as possible, and good quality photographs of any item you would like us to identify. We may ask you to bring the item in, and leave it with us for up to a month, so that we can examine it.

If you are interested in undertaking research on our collections, please get in contact, providing as much detail as possible on the object(s) to which you would like access. Further information for researchers can be downloaded here.

Horticultural Enquiries

The living collection in the garden contains over 1,500 plant varieties. We welcome enquiries about the garden collection and will assist with queries related to the history and development of York Museum gardens. We will not usually assist with general horticultural queries.