IT broke the mould for museums around the world, with its time cars taking visitors through an authentic re-creation of York's Viking settlement.

Now, after welcoming more than 17 million visitors over the past three decades, the Jorvik Viking Centre is celebrating its 30th birthday with a series of events and activities.

Two Vikings were flushed with pride yesterday as they posed for pictures in Jorvik's famous toilet, which has gone on display above ground in the Coppergate Centre.

The centre is also hosting an exhibition over the summer months of Jorvik-themed memorabilia from the last three decades, from the early leaflets and posters which drew in millions of visitors in the first few years to souvenir coins struck for young visitors who now return with their children.

The centre, which opened to national publicity on April 14, 1984, was created on the site of the Coppergate dig, an archaeological investigation that discovered the remains of Viking houses and streets preserved by the waterlogged soil conditions found beneath the current street.

Director of attractions Sarah Maltby said: "Jorvik truly broke the mould of museum interpretation, taking artefacts out of a museum-setting filled with glass cases, and actually giving visitors an immersive experience to really ‘see’ what Viking York would have looked like.

“We have had two major refurbishments since we opened, including a complete redesign of the Viking streets to bring the presentations into line with what further archaeological research has taught us, but the core concept remains the same: we show our visitors what the Viking city of Jorvik would have looked, sounded and smelled like, with a ride through the streets and, indeed, through recreations of Viking houses.”

She said the time-car approach adopted 30 years ago had changed the way history was interpreted in museums and attractions around the world but few had replicated the success of Jorvik, which continued to draw about half a million visitors per year.