Higgins Armory Museum, one of the world’s largest collections of historical arms and armour, will be closing its doors on December 31, 2013. Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, the museum has over 5000 objects ranging back to the Middle Ages and earlier civilizations.
Fortunately, the entire collection will be kept intact and transfered to the Worcester Art Museum. By the spring of 2014 a temporary exhibition will reopen and eventually a permanent gallery will be able to show one hundred percent of the collection.
Suzanne Maas, the interim executive director for the Higgins Armory Museum, “its been extraordinary to have an 85-year-run,” but that two ongoing problems forced the museum’s trustees to make the decision to close. The original endowment for the institution, which was only $17,000 when the museum opened in 1931, has not grown sufficiently over the last two-to-three decades. With the museum being overly reliant on income from admissions and other sources, the long-term future of the museum has been in doubt.
The second major problem facing the museum was that the five-story building which houses the collection, would need a significant investment to modernize and keep current with environmental standards. The distinctive art-deco building was constructed by Worcester industrialist John Woodman Higgins between 1929 and 1931.
Although Higgins will close at the end of the year, the museum has planned a full schedule of student and family-friendly activities through December 31. Popular annual events such as Women in Armor month, Siege the Day Trebuchet Contest, Star Wars Day, Free Fun Friday, Haunted Higgins, Gingerbread Castle Competition, and so much more will continue to draw big crowds as visitors visit Higgins while they can. The extremely popular Festival of Ale will be held in the fall, and more programming will be added to celebrate the last days of the arms and armor at their museum of origin. “Let’s celebrate this year and Mr. Higgins’ legacy,” adds Suzanne Maas.
Nine full-time and nineteen part-time employees work at the museum, which is home to arms and armor from medieval and Renaissance Europe, Ancient Greece and Rome, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Japan. On display are two dozen full suits of armor for battle, jousting, and courtly ceremony, in addition to swords, staff weapons, firearms, and artwork from the age of knightly armor.
The silver lining is that the long-term stewardship of the collection is being taken care of by this decision, and that the artefacts will remain in Worcester. Once the permanent gallery has been established at the Worcester Art Museum, visitors will be able to see entire collection. The current museum only has space for twenty percent of the collection to be seen by the public.
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