Higgins Armory Museum

Solely dedicated to arms and armor

Higgins Museum

Past Exhibitions

Beyond Belief: The Curious Collection of Professor Rufus Excalibur Bell
Curator: Linda Woodland
June 20, 2009 – June 19, 2011
Explore the existence of mythical creatures and the roots of legends by digging through our Department of Curiosities.

The Age of Armor
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
October 18, 2008 – April 26, 2009
The image of the “knight in shining armor” has a deeply evocative power, and surviving examples of the armorers craft fascinate museum audiences who find them at once familiar and mysterious artifacts. The Age of Armor introduces audiences to the most recent interpretations of the age of personal armor in Europe, with emphasis on the plate armor of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The exhibit was on tour across the country through September 2008 and has returned to the Higgins for one last showing at its home museum.

From Anvil to Microscope: Modern metallography and the ancient secrets of metalcraft
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
April 17 to September 7, 2008
Metallurgy has been among the most influential human technologies for over five thousand years. Preindustrial metalsmiths knew nothing of the material science that governs the properties of metals, yet their traditional techniques, handed down from generation to generation, allowed them to manipulate these properties to produce superior steels even without any scientific understanding of what they were doing. This exhibit uses the tools of modern metallography—such as optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and electron diffusion analysis—to reveal the composition and structure of a selection of artifacts from the Higgins Armory collection, ranging from a Chinese bronze blade of 1000 B.C.E. to a modern decorative sword, tracing the evolution of metals technology across the millennia.

Mystical Menagerie of Hilary Scott
Curated by: Higgins Armory Education Department
February 1, 2008 – March 2, 2008
During the month of February, our Special Exhibition gallery will feature the exhibition The Mystical Menagerie of Hilary Scott, with a group of fanciful “trophy head” sculptures of dragons, dinosaurs, and other mystical beasts created by Somerville artist Hilary Scott (visit www.eclecticsculpture.com to see more of his work). This fun exhibition will explore the ways that both real and imaginary animals have entered into our mythology, and will be complemented by a scavenger hunt through our galleries to find a variety of beasts hidden among the armor. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will have a very special visitor in our Quest Gallery beginning the week before Christmas: an enormous, colorful dragon sculpture also created by Scott. Stop by for a visit and submit your entry into our Dragon Naming Contest! Then, beginning in February, visitors will have a chance to help decorate the nine-foot-tall by twelve-foot-long dragon with paper scales. Come help us create his “armor.”

From Conquistadors to Patriots: Arms and Armor in Colonial America
Curators: Barbara Edsall and Cristina Bauer
June 30, 2007 – January 5, 2008
Between 1513 and 1783, four European powers – Spain, France, Holland and England – vied for control of the land and material wealth of North America. The battle for New World domination resulted in numerous wars, the shifting of power, evolving military technology, and eventually colonial revolution. The exhibition, Conquistadors to Patriots, traces arms and armor in America from the Spanish Conquistadors through the American Revolution. Highlights include the gauntlets of Prince Philip of Spain, Myles Standish’s sword, Governor Leverett’s buff coat, Artemas Ward’s silver-hilted hunting sword, Paul Revere’s pistol, and George Washington’s epaulettes worn at the British surrender at Yorktown. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see many rarely displayed artifacts from the Higgins Armory Museum collection side by side with objects from the esteemed collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Old Sturbridge Village, Worcester Historical Museum, American Antiquarian Society, Pilgrim Hall, General Artemas Ward Museum, Francis R. Carroll, Paul V. Mullaney, and the historical societies of Amherst, Bolton, Dedham, Harvard, Fitchburg, Framingham, and Taunton.

Pen and the Sword: Martial Arts Manuals in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
October 2006 – June 2007
This exhibition highlights two major recent acquisitions by the museum: Joachim Meyer’s compendium of traditional medieval martial arts from Germany, printed in 1600, and Giacomo di Grassi’s Italian treatise on combat with the rapier, published in 1570. With a variety of original artifacts and printed materials of the period, the exhibition traces the evolution of arms and techniques in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, as documented by the newly rediscovered treatises on these lost martial arts.

Helen Meyrowitz: The Armor Series
Curator: Cristina Bauer
December 8, 2005 – September 8, 2006
The artist presents a diverse range of arms and armor objects in her mixed media compositions to illustrate themes of war and human aggression while simultaneously celebrating the beauty of their form.

Now Thrive the Armorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
Academic consultant: Professor Virginia Vaughan, Clark University
October 2004 – October 2005
Subsequent tour to Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, June-October 2008
Although people associate armor with the Middle Ages, most surviving armor actually dates to the age of William Shakespeare, a period when the traditions inherited from the Middle Ages were coming into conflict with the social, economic, and technological realities of an increasingly modern world. Shakespeare’s works are filled with the imagery and reality of arms and armor that bring life to perennial themes of chivalry, warfare, conflict, and honor; this exhibition will explore the resonances between Shakespeare’s words and the Higgins Armory’s extensive collection of artifacts from Shakespeare’s age.

Medieval Cart
Curators: Heather Feland, Dianne Berg, Eury Cantillo
July 2004 – August 2004

Passage to India: The Arms and Armor of South Asia
Curators: Jeffrey L. Forgeng and Josephine Jacobs
Thursday 23 October 2003-Sunday 20 June 2004
From the mythic war-chariot of Indra to the armored elephants of the Mughals, arms and armor have always played a prominent part in the rich cultural heritage of the Indian subcontinent. This exhibition will show many captivating pieces from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, ranging from a Hindu temple sword, to a Sikh chakram (throwing disk), to a “Damascus”-bladed saber for a child, to a set of steel “tiger-claws” hidden in the hand as a secret weapon.

The Age of Armor
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
February 13, 2003 – August 31, 2003
Subsequent tour to 16 sites around the United States, March 2004-September 2008
The image of the “knight in shining armor” has a deeply evocative power, and surviving examples of the armorers craft fascinate museum audiences who find them at once familiar and mysterious artifacts. The Age of Armor introduces audiences to the the most recent interpretations of the age of personal armor in Europe, with emphasis on the plate armor of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Portraits! A Knight on the Town
Curator: William MacMillan
September 19, 2002 – January 6, 2003
For years, Sir Andrew the Walking Knight has been a favorite and familiar sight at the Higgins Armory, introducing visitors to armor in action. Now, as part of a city-wide cultural coalition theme on portraits, Sir Andrew is taking his show on the road, as a team of local photographers capture Sir Andrew on the streets of Worcester.

Mail: Lords of the Rings
Curator: Jeffrey L. Forgeng
February 28, 2002 – September 1, 2002
Predating the Roman Empire, mail has been both art form and armor from antiquity to the present day, from Africa to east Asia. It was once essential equipment for the medieval hero from Beowulf to the knights of the Round Table; today mail is seen as a bold, even provocative, fashion statement. This exhibition offers a look at a few of the many facets of mail, including a medieval mail shirt; mail headgear from nineteenth-century India; mail armor from Indonesia, India, Africa, and Japan; and a 20th-century dress made of mail.

Shields of Faith: Russian Icons from the 16th to the 20th centuries
Curator: Dr. Ellen Kosmer, Worcester State College
June 21, 2001 – January 26, 2002
With the fall of Constantinople, the last bastion of the eastern Roman empire, in 1453, the heart of Eastern Orthodox Christianity moved north to Russia. The icons in this exhibition stand as a link to religious and artistic traditions of medieval Byzantium and to the earliest centuries of Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, they represent a living tradition of religion and daily life in Russia: these images of God and the saints were used by the faithful as focal points for worship and as sources of spiritual grace and material protection. This exhibition displays some outstanding examples of this characteristically Russian art form, from a private collection never before placed on public display.

Romance in Steel: The Heritage of Armor
Curators: Walter Karcheski and Jeffrey Singman
January 2, 2001 – June 3, 2001

A Double-Edged Weapon: The Sword as Icon and Artifact
Curators: Walter Karcheski and Jeffrey Singman
January 20, 2000 – November 5, 2000
Subsequent Tour: National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, TN: February 25 – July 8 2001

Field of Dreams: Toy Soldiers From Private Collections
Curators: Kent dur Russell, William Macmillan, Bertram Caldwell, Philip Davis, Christopher Durham
July 1, 1999 – September 5, 1999

Knight Riders, Road Warriors: The Modern Biker & Knightly Culture
Curator, Linda Honan
November 19, 1998 – May 23, 1999
Subsequent Tour: Belknap Mill Society, Laconia, NH: June 12-July 24, 1999
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL: June 12 – September 10, 2000

Clay and Steel: A Modern Look at Ancient Armor
(in partnership with contemporary art group ArtsWorcester)
Leon Nigrosh, Artist and Curator, Maya Nigrosh, Artist
September 15, 1998 – October 25, 1998, Great Hall

The Armorer & the Printmaker: The Development of European Armor Decoration from the Collections of the Worcester Art Museum and Higgins Armory Museum
(A Collaborative Exhibition with the Worcester Art Museum)
Curator: Walter Karcheski
June 2 – September 6, 1998

Mars and the Muses Masks: Artists Dialogue with the Collection
Artists group show in conjunction with ArtsWorcester, Orientation Lobby

The Illuminated Manuscripts from the Boston Public Library: A View into Medieval World
Curator: Professor Ellen Kosmer, Worcester State College
November 1997 – May 1998
Subsequent Tour: Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA: June 1998)

Uniquely Higgins: Objects Strange and Familiar
Curators: William Macmillan, Walter Karcheski, Linda Honan
July 1997 – September 1997

Samurai Warriors: Contemporary Sculpture by H. I. Gates
Curator: Kent dur Russell
February 4, 1997 – June 22, 1997

Renaissance and Medieval Painting from the Permanent Collection
Curator: Kent dur Russell
June 3, 1996 – January 1997