Saturday, January 11, 2014

Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, MA

Before 2013 ended, we had the opportunity to visit the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, which closed its doors permanently on December 31, 2013 after 83 years.  Until 2004, this museum was the only museum in the Western Hemisphere dedicated solely to the collection of arms, armor and art.  The Higgins collection is only second in size to the collection exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

The Higgins Armory building is believed to be the first, or one of the first buildings in the United States to be built out of steel and glass alone.  John Higgins opened the museum, called 'The Museum of Steel and Armor' on January 12, 1931 after his years of collecting armor resulted in a collection he could no longer fit in his home.

Knowing the museum was closing, we assumed it was because of low attendance and high overhead.  On the day we arrived we found a long line wrapped around the building, which took almost an hour for admission and was getting longer as we waited.  I remarked to the guy at the door that there were such a large number of people and he told me attendance was never a problem here.  Their endowments were down and many of the pieces were going to be displayed at the Worcester Art Museum.  

Once we entered the museum, we leisurely wandered through the several floors of exhibits.  There were interactive children's exhibits where you could try on a glove, play chess with giant chess pieces and stop for photos.  The little kids could go to a room and create their own shields.  There was an informative film covering the history of the John Higgins and the Higgins Armory.  The impressive great hall had life size knights on horses jousting and housed 24 full suits of armor.  

Highlights of the Higgins Armory museum will be on exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum in 2014 while their library is being renovated to house the collection permanently.  The new exhibit is slated to open in 2015.  

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