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Thread: Higgins Armory Museum, Worchester MA

  1. #1
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    Higgins Armory Museum, Worchester MA

    This makes me incredibly sad. I've never visited this museum and regret that I'll never be able to do so now.
    A Bell Tolls for the Higgins, a Quirky Armor Museum
    By EVE M. KAHN
    Published: December 19, 2013

    WORCESTER, Mass. — Medieval chain-mail suits and battle axes will soon be hauled away from the Higgins Armory Museum here, a quirky steel-and-glass building with interior Gothic Revival plaster vaults that evoke castles and monasteries.


    John Woodman Higgins, founder of the Higgins Armory Museum, which opened in 1931 in Worcester, Mass.

    The institution, which opened in 1931 as a showcase for an eccentric steel magnate’s collection, is closing on Dec. 31 after a long struggle with budget deficits. It describes itself as “the last prewar privately formed American arms and armor collection to remain in its original home.”

    The museum’s final exhibition pays tribute to its founder, John Woodman Higgins, who displayed iron and steel weapons alongside airplane propellers and light fixtures with stained-glass portraits of knights. After the show closes, the more important items will go to the Worcester Art Museum, which will display part of the collection in its downstairs galleries beginning in March. Weapons will be stacked to form a triumphal arch over 13 feet tall, and a corridor titled “Good and Evil” will be devoted to sharp blades. “We’re showing the most bloodthirsty ones,” Matthias Waschek, the art museum’s director, said at a preview.

    Other objects from the collection are being sold. In March the London arms and armor purveyor Thomas Del Mar auctioned nearly 500 lots from the museum, including cannons and crossbows, Bronze Age daggers and World War I helmets pierced by bullets. Listed among the previous owners were counts and archdukes, as well as tribal warriors in the Congo and the Solomon Islands.

    Some works formerly owned by the Higgins are already popping up elsewhere. At Coe Hall, a 1920s Elizabethan Revival home turned museum in Oyster Bay, N.Y., a suit of armor fashioned in the 1920s that is newly posted by the front door brandishes a spear with a Higgins provenance.

    The fate of the Higgins building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has not been decided. Maintaining climate control is tricky; frost forms on the windowpanes in the winter, and most windows have been blocked to protect artifacts from sunlight.

    “I think it would make a great brewery,” Devon Kurtz, the museum’s director of education, said during a tour. Other proposals include an inn with a medieval theme, a video-game arcade and a police headquarters.

    A helmeted knight that is currently perched on the roof may be brought to the art museum as a potential backdrop for visitors’ photos.

    Mr. Waschek, who grew up in Germany, recalls visiting military museums rather unwillingly as a child. “I always hated this,” he said. “It’s not just this alpha-male ground.”

    Displays of Higgins material planned by the art museum will cover war’s impact on civilians, the similarities between Renaissance armor and cumbersome women’s clothing of the era and the portrayal of soldiers in movies and in superhero comics.

    A FAMILY TIE TO NAPOLEON

    Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t like his American sister-in-law very much. But her legacy, and in a way his own, are conjoined at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore in the exhibition “Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy,” which displays some of her finery and furnishings.

    Elizabeth Bonaparte, a Baltimore native known for her striking beauty, married Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jérôme, who was something of a bon vivant. But Napoleon’s disapproval of the match drove the couple apart within months. She and their newborn son, Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte, known as Bo, returned to Baltimore in 1805, although the two would often travel to Europe. The elder Jérôme married a German princess even before his divorce from his American bride became official, and he treated Bo abysmally, according to Alexandra Deutsch, the society’s chief curator. “He was just a spineless man,” Ms. Deutsch said in an interview.

    Elizabeth went on to build a Baltimore real estate empire, keeping an inventory of her elaborate wardrobe and jewelry along the way. “She had this sense of the significance of her story,” Ms. Deutsch said.

    Bo’s descendants turned over boxfuls of heirlooms to the historical society, including Elizabeth’s garnet and amethyst tiaras and gauzy outfits that were considered scandalous in her time. Just a few weeks ago, a black lace dress that Jérôme gave to Elizabeth turned up in the family’s carefully wrapped and annotated packages; it will appear next year in Ms. Deutsch’s book about the exhibition, and the fabric will be reinforced before going on view. “It’s almost impossible to exhibit because it’s so fragile,” Ms. Deutsch said.

    Family memorabilia has also turned up on the market. In April, a silver wine coaster that belonged to one of Bo’s sons brought $28,750 at Freeman’s Auctioneers in Philadelphia. The unnamed buyer plans to loan it to the historical society.

    Elizabeth and Bo maintained ties with their extended family, including Napoleon’s oldest brother, Joseph, who spent years exiled in America after he was deposed as king of Spain. Peter Tucci, a lawyer in Philadelphia, collects objects related to Joseph, among them a Gothic Revival mahogany chair from Joseph’s palatial home in Bordentown, N.J., which was heavily damaged by fire in 1820. (The chair went for $10,000 at Freeman’s last year).

    Joseph’s furniture, sculptures and paintings were auctioned in the 1840s, shortly before the house was razed. They ended up in institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    “It’s bits and pieces everywhere,” Mr. Tucci said in an interview.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #2
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    This needs updating...

    The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection


    Greek, Corinthian Helmet, 550–450 BCE, bronze

    The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection is the second largest arms and armor collection in the USA. These 1500+ objects range from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century Japan, but at their heart are the suits of steel armor from medieval and Renaissance Europe.

    From 1931 to 2013, the Higgins Collection was on view at Worcester’s Higgins Armory Museum. Since 2014, the collection has been at the Worcester Art Museum, where we are currently working to create a dedicated Arms and Armor gallery to display them.
    Worcester’s Higgins Armory Museum
    55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609

    Removing the 'RIP' from the original title of this post.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #3
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    The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection


    Comb Morion, 1556–1586, Hans Hörburger the Elder (Austrian, active 1556–1586), steel, brass and leather fragments, The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection, 2014.1094.

    The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum
    Beginning November 6 | Levis Gallery

    Suits of armor, and the warriors who wore them, have fueled the human imagination since they first appeared in the ancient world. The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum, explores how these compelling exoskeletons have been used in various forms around the globe, from antiquity to modern times. The Worcester Art Museum’s Higgins Armory Collection is the one of the largest collections of arms and armor in the United States.

    Full suits of articulated steel plates were made only briefly in Europe’s golden age of armor during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The exhibition examines how armor played an important role in the military, technological and cultural life of societies throughout history.

    The first section of the exhibition begins with ancient Greece, when stylish body armor expressed the warrior’s personal taste and social standing, while increasing his chances of survival on the battlefield. Section two details how, by the Middle Ages, knights with expensive iron coats of mail, as well as swords, lances and horses came to dominate the battlefield. Sections three and four examine the craft of armor-making as it evolved in several European cities and the innovation of armorers, who developed full suits of steel for a range of purposes, including wartime applications and ceremonial uses. The exhibition’s final two sections recount how the rise of firearms impacted armor design from 1500 to 1700, and that a renewed interest in medieval armor as collectibles developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum is organized by the Worcester Art Museum and is sponsored locally by presenting sponsors Susan and Tom Palmer and Taylor Cadillac, as well as Exhibition Program sponsor ProMedica, with additional support from the McLoughlin Family Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.


    Tickets are required for entry. TMA Members receive free admission.
    Coming to the Toledo Museum of Art
    2445 Monroe Street
    Toledo, OH 43620

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    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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