A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
A Visitor's Experience: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
An article by Chad Arnow
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most venerable museums in the United States. Formed in 1870, it moved to its current site in 1880. It houses an enormous amount of art and artifacts from throughout history and throughout the world. For visitors to and residents of New York City, it has been a destination for many years. It also houses one of the premiere collections of arms and armour in the United States, if not one of the finest in the world.
The arms and armour department was founded in 1896 and has grown through the years through purchases and donations. Some of these donations have been entire collections or large parts of them, resulting in a large, diversified, and important larger collection. The arms and armour collection's current gallery site was reopened after a renovation in 1991.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (also know as "The Met") is on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in New York's famous Central Park. As such, it is easy to reach it by bus, subway, and taxi. The Met provides suggested donation amounts for entrance: $25 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students. There is no additional charge for special exhibitions, though the museum strongly urges those visiting the special exhibits to pay the full suggested amount. Paying the suggested donation is certainly worth the price in this author's opinion.
The museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 to 5:30 Sunday through Thursday and 10:00 to 9:00 Friday and Saturday. All galleries are cleared fifteen minutes prior to closing time.
Some amenities allow the visitor to save some time during their visit by taking a meal or snack onsite: the museum has a cafeteria on its lower level that should cater to every visitor. There is also an open courtyard where coffee is served.
The Met allows non-flash photography in all of the permanent collection galleries where there are no signs forbidding it. Special exhibitions and items on loan may not be photographed. Use of a tripod is permitted on weekdays with a permit from the desk. For those wanting to take a lot of photographs or who prefers a quiet environment may want to time schedule a visit earlier in the day before the afternoon crowds arrive.
Viewing the Collection
The Met's collection of arms and armour resides primarily in its own section on the museum's first floor. The visitor first walks into the open, largely naturally lit Equestrian Court. This court can also be viewed from above while wandering through the musical instrument exhibit.
Other Things of Note
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is well-represented in print, with catalogues and guides dating back to the museum's founding. The arms and armour department has seen distinguished leadership, including Bashford Dean, Helmut Nickel, Stuart W. Pyhrr, and its current Curator in Charge, Pierre Terjanian. These gentlemen have authored or helped author many books on the subject as well as books on the Met's collection and special galleries.
The museum's main gift shop contains all the knick-knacks and souvenirs one would expect. In addition, though, the shop contained many of the recent publications from the arms and armour department as well as a number of other quality books on arms and armour and medieval history. Recent publications like Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 1991-2002, The Armored Horse in Europe 1480-1620 (a catalogue of the exhibition noted above), and Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance Filippo Negroli and His Contemporaries are for sale alongside Ewart Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword and publications from the The Royal Armouries, Leeds. These publications even seem reasonably priced, something not always sees at many tourist destinations. The museum gift shop has recently added the wonderful new books published by Hans Prunner Editore to its impressive lineup of offerings.
The museum houses much more than arms and armour, and visitors should try to take enough time to experience all the various offerings. Anyone with an interest in history or art will enjoy the visit, as there is so much to offer. Art and artifacts from many cultures pack the floors. I had the chance to view a special exhibition, Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture, and was quite impressed.
Arms and armour enthusiasts should do everything in their power to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art if they find themselves in the area. Its collection is large and varied, and filled with important, high-quality items. These items are easily viewable and their personal photography policy is liberal. On top of this, the museum is centrally located in Manhattan and easy to find. If visiting on a nice day, New York City's Central Park can be fully enjoyed as it is located behind and around the Met.
There are not too many high-quality arms and armour collection in the United States. The Met is perhaps the crown jewel of them all. Its collections should please both the arms and armour lover and any family members and friends sharing the visit.
View the full Metropolitan Museum of Art photo album
About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Additional photos can be viewed in our Metropolitan Museum of Art photo album.
Photographer: Chad Arnow