While not technically clothing or textiles, armor was certainly worn, and therefore deserves mention here! Because it is less sensitive to light and temperature than fabric, armor is much easier to exhibit, and many museums have their collections on permanent display.
Here are a few of the most notable collections of armor around the world. Many of them have similar names – the “Royal Armories” were in a way the first museums – dynastic collections from some of the oldest cultures in Europe.
Museum of Fine Art, Vienna, Austria
The Viennese collection numbers among the best of its kind in the world. Furthermore, it is the best-documented collection of court arms and armour in the western world, since the exhibits were generally created or acquired in connection with important political occasions: on the occasion of military campaigns, Imperial Diets, ceremonies of homage, coronations, engagements, marriages and baptisms. No family of rulers was connected by marriage with so many European countries as were the Habsburgs. For this reason, nearly all western European princes from the 15th to the early 20th centuries are represented with armour and ornamental weapons.
The suits of armour are custom creations made by the most famous armourers: the Armour for a Horseman by Tommaso Missaglia, the Cuirassier Armour by Lorenz Helmschmid for Emperor Maximilian I, the Boy’s Folded Skirt Armour by Konrad Seusenhofer for the future Emperor Charles V, as well as the Half-Armour alla Romana by Filippo Negroli and many others. The often magnificent etchings were quite frequently based on designs by such famous artists as Dürer and Holbein.
The Museo de la Real Armeria is considered to have one of the largest collection of its kind because the objects found here dates from even before 13th century belonging to different kings and families. The museum has two floors that are mounted on dummies of horses and characters and they are in their original size. The collection of the museum is also very rich which includes all sorts of weapons starting from swords to rifles, a collection of armor etc. The museum is a great place to visit for any history lover.
Dresden Historical Museum, Dresden, Germany
The Dresden Armoury has one of the most valuable collections of weapons and armoury in the world. It unites the masterpieces of armourers, artists and artisans from all corners of Europe and the Orient and includes around 10,000 ceremonial weapons – armour, helmets, shields, swords, rapiers and daggers, sabres and maces, pistols and rifles. The exhibition also includes riding equipment, ceremonial clothes and works of art works as well as portraits which are largely from the 16th to 18th century and come from the collection of the Wettin Elector. The Turkish fashion that was popular at the Electoral Saxon court is reflected by the exquisite collection of oriental and oriental-style weapons, clothes and riding equipment as well as in the magnificent Turkish tents.
This museum contains one of Europe’s major collections of weapons and armour. The museum consists of seven main spaces: Main Courtyard and Artillery collections (including manufacturing history), Old Armour & Weapons, 13th-17th Century (including an exhibit on Courtly Leisure Activities and an important collection of medieval swords), The Modern Department from Louis XIV to Napoleon III, 1643 – 1870 (which covers the military, political, social and industrial history of France, reliving great battles, exploring the lives of soldiers, and tracing the development of technologies and tactics), The Dôme des Invalides (which contains the tomb of Napoleon I), The Contemporary Department (the Two World Wars 1871 – 1945), The Charles de Gaulle Monument, and the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides.
One of the oldest museums in the world, the Royal Armouries collection consists of some 70,000 examples of arms, armour and artillery dating from antiquity to the present day. It includes royal armours of the Tudor and Stuart kings; arms and armour of the English Civil Wars, including the Armoury from Littlecote House; British and foreign military weapons from the Board of Ordnance and MOD Pattern Room collections; hunting and sporting weapons, as well as an exceptional collection of oriental arms and armour. The collection includes material relating to the Tower of London.
The oldest museum in Sweden, the Royal Armoury was established in 1628 by King Gustavus Adolphus when he decided that his clothes from his campaign in Poland should be preserved for posterity. Focused on a connection with Swedish royalty, this collection possesses some of the world’s finest armor.
New York, NY (USA)
The principal goals of the Arms and Armor Department are to collect, preserve, research, publish, and exhibit distinguished examples representing the art of the armorer, swordsmith, and gunmaker. The focus of the collection is on works that show outstanding design and decoration, rather than those of purely military or technical interest. Unlike the great dynastic armories now preserved as museum collections in Vienna, Madrid, Dresden, Paris, London, and Stockholm, the Museum’s collection is a modern one, formed through the activities and interests of curators, trustees, private collectors, and donors over the past 125 years. The collection comprises approximately 14,000 objects, of which more than five thousand are European, two thousand are from the Near East, and four thousand from the Far East. It is one of the most comprehensive and encyclopedic collections of its kind.
Worcester, Massachusetts (USA)
Transferred from the recently closed Higgins Armory Museum, this collection of 2,000 pieces is one of the most significant collections of arms and armor outside of Europe. They look to highlight this collection with a new permanent exhibition called Knights!, which is divided into sections on Courtly Pursuits, The Dance of Love and War, Knights of the Round Table, Triumphal Arch, and The Corridor of Good + Evil, in which viewers will be able to compare and contrast wars of the past with those of the present, looking at warfare in a comporary context.