Elizabeth Hartley, Archaeologist

Elizabeth Grayson Hartley (1947 – 2018)

As the first ever-Keeper of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, Elizabeth held a key role in the City of York. She had responsibility for possibly the largest and best collection of Roman-British antiquities outside of London and for the Yorkshire Museum’s vast archaeological collection drawn from the City of York itself and the Museum’s regional area. 

She skilfully masterminded a series of spectacular special topic temporary exhibitions, commissioning the best museum designers of the day and successfully gained loans and support from the British Museum (building on her earlier work contacts there). She also had much support from other regional museums in Britain and throughout Europe. Her most notable exhibitions include:

1976 The Viking Kingdom of York (which helped raise funds for the Coppergate Viking town excavation in York)

1980 The International Vikings Exhibition

1982 Vikings in England exhibition (opened by HRH Prince of Wales and the Minister for the Arts in York) and awarded European Museum of the Year

2001 Alcuin & Charlemagne- the Golden Age of York

2006 Constantine the Great (marking the 1700th anniversary of the Emperor’s proclamation in York) resulting in a superb catalogue with her co-editor Reverend Professor Martin Henig. 

Elizabeth was particularly active in obtaining wonderful objects for the Yorkshire Museum, including the iconic Middleham Jewel. The Coppergate Anglian Helmet and the Gilling Sword, along with many other objects, were added to the collections during her Keepership. 

In 1995, Elizabeth was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. She was married to Brian Hartley, another archaeologist. They lived in Bootham and had two children. 

Dr Peter Addyman, her friend and colleague, described her as ‘This most determined, imaginative and devoted American expert – whose legacy to her adopted city will extend far into the future’.


Addyman, P. (2018) Eulogy Elizabeth Grayson Hartley

Image of Elizabeth Hartley ©The Press, York