Tower of London: Power House

Discover the stories and personalities behind the major organisations of state, who took care of Royal business from within the mighty Tower of London’s walls from 1100 to the present day in our upcoming Power House exhibition.

Power House – which opens on the White Tower’s top floor on Saturday 2nd April in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces – showcases the roles of the major organisations that provided the bedrock of England’s power throughout the centuries.

Power House

Power House

Great institutions include the Ordnance Office, Ordnance Survey, the Royal Mint, Record Office, the Jewel House, Menagerie and Royal Observatory. The exhibition will also put the spotlight on other Tower of London functions, ranging from royal residence to state prison.

The Tower has been home to many important national institutions for over 900 years and was viewed as a fortress and symbol of England’s might. Close to the seat of Royal power at Westminster, the Tower became England’s ultimate Power House – and the functions it housed were vital to whether successive monarchs kept or lost control of the kingdom.

We’ll be following the progress of the exhibition’s installation throughout March with posts from our Head of Creative Programmes Karen Whitting.

Behind the Scenes: Conservation

Conservation plays a key role in any museum, although conservators aren’t always the most visible members of staff they are involved in a huge number of museum activities behind the scenes. At the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds we have three full time conservators who staff our main conservation lab, they are regularly joined by volunteers and interns from conservation courses around the UK and from abroad.

Conservation Lab

Conservation Lab

Conservators are responsible for the care and preservation of the Museum’s entire collection. Work ranges from practical remedial conservation work, like preparing objects for new exhibition or loans to other museums, to preventative conservation such as monitoring and controlling temperature, humidity and light levels around the Museum.

The more grizzly side of a Conservators role includes pest management, which in our case includes rabbits in the Arena as well as the more normal museum pests like woolly bears or woodworm. The Conservation Team do a wide variety of other day-to-day jobs, including checking the condition of objects before they are used in handling sessions to ensure objects are suitable and won’t be damaged.

It is also important that Conservators test any materials which are going to be used in close contact with displayed objects to ensure they won’t cause the object to deteriorate, for example silk will cause silver to tarnish if left in the same display case together.

Xray Room

Xray Room

In addition to the main lab the Museum has a large X-ray room where objects from the size of a small bullet up to a large cannon can be examined. X-raying objects helps us to understand how objects are constructed, helping us to choose appropriate treatments. It can also answer questions which Conservators and Curators have about a particular object, as well as identifying old repairs or intentional fakes.

The Conservation Team will be posting regularly about what they’re up to, keep checking back for more!

Japanese Swords on Twitter

Japanese, 15th century katana - attributed to the Shizu group

Japanese katana - 15th century

Our ever popular Japanese Swords Seminar is taking place on Saturday 12 February, in fact it’s so popular that tickets have sold out! But don’t despair, even if you didn’t manage to get hold of a ticket, as  we’ll be Tweeting events live as they happen throughout the day.

This session, delivered by Keeper of Armour & Oriental Collections Thom Richardson, and Curator Emeritus Ian Bottomley, will give participants a unique chance to learn about the making and care of these important cultural objects. Including the chance to handle genuine objects from our study collections which are not usually on display.

To join simply follow @Royal_Armouries on Twitter or search for #RAseminars on Twitter to follow the day’s events as they unfold. We’d love to hear any questions you have about our Japanese sword collection so please ask away, on the day or in advance – we’re waiting to hear from you!

 

Collections Up Close February

As St Valentine’s Day, a celebration of love and romance, is celebrated this month we’re taking a closer look at a rather beautiful object . In the Royal Armouries collection is a richly decorated pistol, its many amorous motifs suggest that it is a lover’s gift.

‘Forget-me-not’ Wheellock pistol

‘Forget-me-not’ Wheellock pistol

It was most likely made purely for show rather than for actual use. The decoration includes a sprig of forget-me-nots and the inscription ‘VER GIS MEIN NIT’ (forget me not). The forget-me-not flower is regarded as an emblem of loving remembrance, faithful love, constancy and undying hope. The very ornate piece is also dated 1581. It can be seen on display in the Presentation Arms case on the Fifth Floor of our Leeds Museum.

Forget-me-not detail decoration

Forget-me-not detail decoration

You can find out more about the objects in our collection by searching our online database.

Blogger: Angela Clare, Researcher

Collections Up Close January

Pattern 1796 Heavy Cavalry sword

Pattern 1796 Heavy Cavalry sword

This pattern 1796 Heavy Cavalry sword was presented to Henry Wiley Middleton on 1 January 1864. The sword is allegedly that of Sgt John Shaw of the Life Guards who ‘killed 13 men at the Battle of Waterloo’. However, it is recorded that Shaw’s sword broke in the battle and he had to resort to killing the last of the 13 Frenchmen with his helmet! This may have been another of Shaw’s swords or later attributed to him. It was later presented by Col. Mc Vicar to E. Young Esq, M.D., who then gave it to his grandson Henry in 1864, adding the inscription to record the sword’s interesting history.

Blogger: Angela Clare, Researcher

Collections Up Close December

Saxony armour

In 1591, as a Christmas present for her husband, the Elector Christian I of Saxony, the Electress Sophia commissioned twelve special armours to be made for him. Unfortunately, Christian I died in September 1591 before receiving these gifts. One of the armours, a half-armour made for foot combat at the barriers, is in the Royal Armouries collection. The helmet is currently on display in the Tournament Gallery in our Leeds Museum.The armour retains its original blued finish and is etched and gilt with decoration.

Blogger: Angela Clare, Researcher

Collections Up Close November

Pte. Thomas Queenan. Image ©Royal Armouries.

Pte. Thomas Queenan

Our Leeds Museum houses items which belonged to Private Thomas Queenan, who was killed on 4th June 1916 while serving in France. He lived near the site of our Leeds Museum and several of his belongings were donated by his family, including his 1914 Star, War and Victory medals, and his Queen Mary’s Christmas Box which contained a souvenir handkerchief of his West Yorkshire Regiment. Queenan was just one of many thousands of men from the region who lost their lives during the war who will be honoured in our Remembrance Day service.

Pte. Thomas Queenan is standing on the right in this image. Image ©Royal Armouries.

Blogger: Angela Clare, Researcher