Major Arms and Armor Galleries to open in 2025

We are getting our first look at what a major collection of Arms and Armor in the United States. The Worcester Art Museum has new renderings—for its new Arms and Armor Galleries, which are set to open in late 2025.

Presenting the Museum’s collection of arms and armor, the second largest of its kind in the Americas, these galleries will span approximately 5,000 square feet. This collection, which was originally from the Higgins Armory, has more than 1,000 objects including pieces from medieval and Renaissance Europe alongside items from ancient Greece, Egypt, Japan, India, and beyond. Where the old installation at the Higgins only allowed for a small part of the collection to be on view, new installations and an innovative open storage system will allow for almost the entire collection to be on view.


Centrally located on the Museum’s second floor, these new galleries will cost about $6 million to create. Upon entering the front gallery, audiences will engage with dramatic arms and armor displays with star objects from the collection. The rear gallery will provide the look and feel of open storage, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what museums do to preserve and share these objects, and will offer spaces for hands-on programming and demonstrations.

Concept design renderings for the Worcester Art Museum’s forthcoming Arms and Armor Galleries. Courtesy TSKP x IKD.

The Arms and Armor Galleries were designed by TSKP x IKD, in collaboration with Jeffrey L. Forgeng, the Higgins Curator of Arms and Armor and Medieval Art at WAM, and Museum leadership, with significant contributions from scholars, educators, and organizational partners.


“This is a major milestone in the development of our new Arms and Armor Galleries, and on behalf of the Museum’s whole team, I am excited to be able to share these design plans with our public,” said Matthias Waschek, the Museum’s Jean and Myles McDonough Director. “These objects offer an exceptional window into the artistry, culture, and technology behind arms and armor, and our presentation will place these artifacts in a context that resonates with contemporary issues and underscores our role as a place of learning, inspiration, and profound reflection. I want to thank our many donors who allowed us to undertake the most significant reshaping of the Worcester Art Museum’s galleries and collections in decades, and part of our commitment to ensure that this important collection remains in our city.”

Among the objects that will be on view are:

  • Helmet in the Form of a Sea Conch Shell (Japan, 1618): A remarkable piece likely worn by one of Japan’s leading figures during the era of Tokugawa Ieyasu, admired for its unique design and exquisite craftsmanship.
  • Gladiator Helmet (Roman Empire, c. 1st Century C.E.): Among only three such artifacts in the Americas, this helmet offers a rare glimpse into the dramatic world of Roman colosseum sports.
  • Pair of Gauntlets for Prince Philip of Spain (Augsburg, 1549–50): Part of the “Flowers Garniture,” these gauntlets represent the apex of Renaissance armor craftsmanship, made by one of Europe’s most skilled armorers, decorated by one of the leading armor etchers and worn by one of the most important historical figures of the period.
  • Bow-case Cover (Ottoman or Mamluk, 1600s): Reflecting the nomadic heritage of the Turkish peoples, this piece combines luxury with traditional design, illustrating the intersection of culture and utility.

A major component of the Museum’s installation plan is to rethink traditional ideas for accessibility, both physical and intellectual, in ways that support WAM’s strategic priority of increasing access, equity, inclusivity, and diversity at the Museum. That includes deploying a range of interpretive modes—some of which the Museum has been piloting in its renovated Medieval Galleries over the last several years—to support and engage audiences with an array of interests, learning styles, and abilities.

Among these are: hands-on, tactile interactives, giving visitors an opportunity to address their curiosity about, for example, the weight and feel of armor; new digital tools that will provide in-depth information on objects in the galleries’ open storage; “static interactives,” such as wall maps highlighting key locations for armor production or use; and new approaches to in-gallery seating that provides a relaxing place from which to study the objects. WAM will also continue its unique, ongoing program of live interpretation around its arms and armor collection, including costumed presentations that feature knights and samurai—opportunities to learn about the arms and cultures from around the world.

“I’m thrilled to be able at last to share our design for the future arms and armor gallery,” said Jeffrey L. Forgeng, The Higgins Curator of Arms and Armor and Medieval Art at WAM. “Our team has been working for a decade to create a plan that will do justice to the amazing objects in the Higgins Armory Collection. The new galleries will tell a global story that explores the mythic power of these objects in the various cultures that used them, a power that still resonates for visitors whenever they see a suit of armor. Through this custom-designed space, we are looking forward to offering a powerful experience that will encourage our audiences to indulge their natural curiosity about these objects and feel themselves as part of the Museum.”


The Worcester Art Museum is located in Worcester, Massachusetts. Click here to learn more about the Arms and Armor Galleries project.