Missing Link…

Amongst a sea of metal links, Kate Perks, Conservation Intern, tells us about getting a rider’s coat of mail ready for a trip to the British Library.

Kate Perks, Conservation Intern, works on the coat of mail.

I am currently working on an Indian, 17th century coat of mail, taken off one of our horse and riders in the Oriental Gallery, Leeds. This is going on display at the British Library in November. At the moment my biggest challenge is to work out how to fix a broken metal plate called a lamellae. I’m doing experiments to see if I can fix it in a less intrusive way than previously.  I am trying different adhesives. A couple of my previous tests have failed but the third test seems to be the winner. I have weighted it to see how strong it is, how much weight it will hold and how long for.

The lamellae has split before and been mended with a metal plate and rivet but it wasn’t reversible and it has failed. I’m now trying to find a different method that is reversible but will be strong enough. We have to be very careful with the adhesives we use, again because should there be problems we need to be able to remove it. We can’t use super glue, for instance because once that’s stuck, that’s it.

The coat of mail is made up of different sizes of links. There are larger links in the areas you need more protection or are most likely to be attacked, because they’re the strongest and the thickest metal. As you don’t need that thickness throughout the length, at the bottom the links are much smaller, which makes it lighter but they still offer some protection. I had to look carefully through the thousands of links, which make up the coat of mail to see which needed replacing, so far I have put in 12 large, 2 medium and 3 small links.  It’s probably going to take me another 3 days to finish, but what’s slowing it down is the experiments I have been doing with the adhesives. I have already cleaned it, and finally it will need treating with a protective coating to help stop it corroding.

The coat of mail, along with its rider and horse will be going on loan to the British Library from 8 November.

To find out more about the Conservation Department visit our website.

Blogger: Kate Perks, Conservation Intern

Kate’ll Fix It…

Kate Perks is on a 12-month internship in the Royal Armouries’ Conservation department. She talks about getting to grips with firearms, handling holsters and why there’s never a dull day in conservation.

Kate Perks, Conservation Intern

I have always had an interest in history and my path into conservation started after studying History of Decorative Arts and Crafts at Brighton University. I knew I wanted to work closely with historical objects, I am a hands-on person and I like to physically work with objects, so conservation ticked all the boxes. The element of the job I enjoy the most is getting something that is broken and fixing it or getting something that is looking a bit sad and making it happy again! There are also challenges of the job, as we must make sure everything we do is reversible, the methods used do not harm the object and will last.  Therefore if another conservator comes across the object 50 years later, when technology has moved on and processes have changed, they can undo my work. It’s not just simply fixing things.  It is also about making sure the methods used can be reversed, using materials that have been tested and proven not to react with the object, such as making sure it won’t cause it to corrode, and that the materials are stable enough that they will carry on doing their job for decades to come.

I recently had my first experience of firearms with the Matchlock guns that are going on loan at the Small Arms Centre for Excellence, Nizwar, Oman, in October. This was a challenge because you have to make sure they’re not loaded and I had to learn about the firing mechanism.  It was interesting getting to understand how they work.

I have also been getting a handle on holsters, I was presented with a box of around 18, all jumbled up, so I have been going through them and looking at the best ways to store them. At the moment I am trying to work out how they can keep their shape, even just things like lining them with tissue can work. I’ve also been doing some research to find out what type of leather they are made from. This depends on the hair follicles, and how they are positioned, from that you can work out whether it’s leather from a cow or a sheep. This is found with a little microscope, with a light on it, you place it over the object, with LED lights, the image appears on the computer, and you can then take a photograph to study more closely.

After my internship, I would love to get a full time position here or at another museum but at the moment I am making the most of every opportunity.

To find out more about the Conservation Department visit our website here.

Find out why Kate is searching for the missing link in a coat of mail in her next blog instalment…

Blogger: Kate Perks, Conservation Intern

Kate’ll Fix It…

Kate Perks is on a 12-month internship in the Royal Armouries’ Conservation department. She talks about getting to grips with firearms, handling holsters and why there’s never a dull day in conservation.

Kate Perks, Conservation Intern

I have always had an interest in history and my path into conservation started after studying History of Decorative Arts and Crafts at Brighton University. I knew I wanted to work closely with historical objects, I am a hands-on person and I like to physically work with objects, so conservation ticked all the boxes. The element of the job I enjoy the most is getting something that is broken and fixing it or getting something that is looking a bit sad and making it happy again! There are also challenges of the job, as we must make sure everything we do is reversible, the methods used do not harm the object and will last.  Therefore if another conservator comes across the object 50 years later, when technology has moved on and processes have changed, they can undo my work. It’s not just simply fixing things.  It is also about making sure the methods used can be reversed, using materials that have been tested and proven not to react with the object, such as making sure it won’t cause it to corrode, and that the materials are stable enough that they will carry on doing their job for decades to come.

I recently had my first experience of firearms with the Matchlock guns that are going on loan at the Small Arms Centre for Excellence, Nizwar, Oman, in October. This was a challenge because you have to make sure they’re not loaded and I had to learn about the firing mechanism.  It was interesting getting to understand how they work.

I have also been getting a handle on holsters, I was presented with a box of around 18, all jumbled up, so I have been going through them and looking at the best ways to store them. At the moment I am trying to work out how they can keep their shape, even just things like lining them with tissue can work. I’ve also been doing some research to find out what type of leather they are made from. This depends on the hair follicles, and how they are positioned, from that you can work out whether it’s leather from a cow or a sheep. This is found with a little microscope, with a light on it, you place it over the object, with LED lights, the image appears on the computer, and you can then take a photograph to study more closely.

After my internship, I would love to get a full time position here or at another museum but at the moment I am making the most of every opportunity.

To find out more about the Conservation Department visit our website here.

Find out why Kate is searching for the missing link in a coat of mail in her next blog instalment…

Blogger: Kate Perks, Conservation Intern

Assassin’s Creed III Comes to the Royal Armouries

Jonathan Ferguson, Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries and self-confessed gamer uncovers the true history of the war game and shares his opinions on Assassin’s Creed III.

Assassin’s Creed III – Image courtesy of Ubisoft

This October sees the much-anticipated release of the epic Assassin’s Creed III, the second major sequel to the original game. From an arms and armour perspective, this has been an interesting series. The first game, set during the Third Crusade (1189 – 1292), featured some beautiful and quite authentic medieval weapons and armour, as well as some convincing swordplay. The second game made a jump into the Renaissance, and was the first to introduce firearms in the form of a wheellock pistol integrated into the iconic (if fictional) ‘hidden blade’. As with much of the architecture, history and politics authentically depicted in these games, this mechanism really did exist in this timeframe, and may even have been invented by famous historical inventor and artist Leonardo Da Vinci as shown in ACII. Even if not, Da Vinci’s sketches of the wheellock are the first known of this, the revolutionary ignition system that made possible the pistol as we know it today.

With its late 18th century setting, ACIII will move us fully into the gunpowder era, but for gameplay reasons (not to mention the Assassin’s numerical disadvantage!) the firearm is likely to remain a weapon of last resort for the player. However, as infantry by this time were universally equipped with flintlock arms, there will be plenty of bullets to dodge!

Royal Armouries’ collection – Pair of flintlock pistols. English, about 1777. Made by Barber. (XII.1333; XII.1334)

Assassin’s Creed has helped to get a new generation interested in historically-set games and in history itself, featuring events and people more relevant and colourful than those of the fantasy genre. Along with the ‘Total War’ series and independent efforts like ‘Mount & Blade’, the future looks bright for historical gaming.

Blogger: Jonathan Ferguson, Curator of Firearms, Royal Armouries

Assassin’s Creed III will preview at the Royal Armouries as part of Ubisoft’s UK wide tour. The previews will take place as part of the Weekend Warriors: War Games event on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 August at 12pm & 1pm.

Please note: Assassin’s Creed III is 18+ and ID is required to attend the demonstration.

For more information visit our website here.

Heroes aren’t born, they’re built…

The Royal Armouries has gained a superhero for the summer, in the form of the impressive and imposing Iron Man, and there is no doubt that this superhero was built.

Mark Pearson, a car body repairer from Bradford built the impressive six feet tall replica suit especially for the Royal Armouries after he hit the headlines earlier this year for building his first Iron Man suit. Mark, a fan of the comic book hero, took his inspiration from a 12-inch toy model of actor Robert Downey Jr in the famous red and gold suit. He started making a supersized helmet, but then found he just could not stop until he had built a full-sized suit. The suit is built from 400 sheets of cardboard, which Mark turned into a three-dimensional structure and then fibre-glassed.  It is also fitted with flashing lights for the eyes, hands and chest.

Mark said, “This all started out with a quick browse on a movie replica-makers’ website but quickly spiralled into a challenge that I just couldn’t resist.  The first replica attracted a huge amount of interest, but the high spot came when the Royal Armouries got in touch and commissioned me to create another. It will be one of the first things that visitors see when they enter the museum.

“I am a huge fan of the film. It’s just a shame that I am too short to wear the original suit but friends have worn it. The only thing it can’t do is fly!”

The story of Iron Man sees billionaire playboy and ingenious engineer, Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark, suffer a severe chest injury during a kidnapping, his captors attempt to force him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He instead creates a powered suit of armour to save his life and escape captivity. He later uses the suit to protect the world as Iron Man.

Standing alongside the Royal Armouries’ extensive collection of armour, Iron Man will stand proud in the Hall of Steel throughout the summer, although it looks like he may be intimidating some of our existing residents!

Image

We welcome Iron Man as part of our summer theme of Games – Sporting and Gaming. For more information about our summer events visit our website here.

Royal Armouries to publish oldest known fencing manual in Western World

Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33 is the oldest known fencing manual in the Western world.

In this Olympic year it is being lent for exhibition to The Wallace Collection in London.

The Royal Armouries have taken this opportunity to rebind the manuscript and
while it is unbound to photograph it so that a unique full scale colour facsimile can be published.

The Royal Armouries have teamed up with specialist publishers Extraordinary Editions who have designed a replica early 14th-century binding for the facsimile, which will be packaged in a solander box along with a companion volume and feature a page by page transcription and translation as well as a new introduction by Dr Jeffrey Forgeng of the Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, Mass.

MS I.33 will be published as a limited edition and in order to fund the project a limited number of subscriber copies will be made available at £600 [plus postage and packing]. Remaining copies will cost considerably more.

If wish to register for a copy of I.33 please e-mail mm@extraordinaryeditions.com as soon as possible.

The first 25 copies have already been reserved.

Medieval manuscript illustrations of sword fencing

Royal Armouries MS I.33 – the oldest known fencing manual in the Western World

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Painted Sallet

Over the last six weeks we’ve had two students from the University of Huddersfield, Jonathon and Vikki, in residence within our Curatorial Department. Here’s an object which caught Vikki’s eye whilst working behind the scenes.

German Sallet

German Sallet

This German Sallet dates from about 1490, from the early 13th century to the early 16th century helmets were commonly decorated with paint, and by the end of the 14th century, whole jousting armours were painted black to prevent rust. Painting was a very cheap way to decorate armour, but only a few examples of painted helmets survive today. Painting a helmet was also a good way of easily recognising people on the battlefield.

German Sallet

German Sallet

This Sallet, the popular choice of helmet in Germany throughout the 15th century, is remarkably covered with painted patterns. The upper part of the sallet is covered in a flame pattern and the lower part including the visor has a red, white and green chequered design. Inside the squares are stars, portcullises and an interlace pattern in red and white.

Blogger: Vikki Bielby, Student Work Placement – Curatorial Department

Power House – Object Conservation

Prior to installation of a new exhibition the objects which will appear on display have to be carefully cared for by the Conservation Team. Nyssa Mildwaters, one of the Royal Armouries Conservators, will be blogging about several interesting items which will soon be on display at the Tower of London.

One of the more unusual looking objects being conserved for the Power House exhibition is a three stemmed candlestick.  The main body of the candlestick is made from metal weapon parts which twisted and fused together during the blaze which destroyed the Grand Storehouse at the Tower of London on the 30th of October 1841.

Candlestick made from debris of the fire at the Tower of London in 1841

Candlestick made from debris of the fire at the Tower of London in 1841

Large numbers of weapons and other historic objects were destroyed by the fire, however in the weeks that followed tables were set up in what was left of the building and pieces of bizarrely twisted and shaped metal debris were sold off to members of the public at prices of up to £1 each.

This particular piece of debris was converted into a candlestick by drilling into the lump and then screwing on the three decorative stems, which as you can see have a very different appearance to the twisted and misshapen metal below. Although it is not possible to identify all the metal components which fused together forming the centre of the candlestick, yet to one side there is still clearly visible the remains of the lock or firing mechanism from a flintlock rifle.

Very little remedial conservation work was actually needed to get this object ready for display as it was already in pretty good condition if a little dusty. The dust and any dirt were removed using solvents swabs, after which the whole object was coated with a protective layer of Micro-Crystalline Wax. This was achieved by using a technique called ‘hot waxing’, where the wax is warmed during application to give a better and more even coating.  With conservation complete the candlestick is now awaiting packaging and transport to the Tower of London, ready for display.

Royal Armouries Collections

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 Royal Armouries also has a significant collection of fine and decorative arts, and a special collection of material relating to the Tower of London, including antique prints and drawings, paintings, early photographs, stereoscopes and lantern slides, and rare books.

The Royal Armouries library contains material relating to the history, development and use of arms, armour, artillery and fortifications, and to the Tower of London.

It has special collections of original military manuals, drill books, and fencing manuals. The collection amounts to some 30,000 books and pamphlets, 10,000 journals and magazines, and 6,000 auction sales catalogues.

There is a large Picture Library containing some 70,000 images of objects in the collection, which are available for purchase and reproduction. The Archives contains records relating to the Museum, collections of research material from scholars such as Sir James Mann and Howard Blackmore, as well as the records of the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield.

Why not use our online collection database to view 40,000 of these records?