Location: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gallery, Arms and Armor Galleries
The Arms and Armor Department was created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees on October 28, 1912, mainly due to the impressive scholarship and tireless efforts of Dr. Bashford Dean (1867-1928), the department's founding curator.
To mark the centennial of the establishment of the Arms and Armor Department, Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department—an exhibition featuring some 50 rare objects, books, manuscripts, and period photographs—will celebrate Dean’s multifaceted career, surveying his work as a field zoologist in Japan, a professor of Vertebrate Zoology at Columbia University, and Curator of Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, and then concentrating on his groundbreaking work as the Metropolitan Museum’s first Curator of Arms and Armor.
Among the highlights of the exhibition will be a rare example of late Gothic German armor (ca. 1475-1500) that was expertly completed and restored under Dean’s close supervision. Since this type of armor was no longer available on the art market by the early 20th century, Dean used his knowledge and resources to create one suitable for museum display. Contrasted with this will be a 19th-century Japanese armor that Dean acquired while conducting scientific research in Japan and later donated to the Museum. A photograph taken around 1900 that shows him wearing the full suit of armor will be displayed together with the armor.
Between 1904 and 1912, Dean rose rapidly from guest curator to honorary curator and finally to head of the newly created Arms and Armor Department, building the collection into one of international importance before his premature death in 1928. In the process, he designed helmets and body armor for U.S. troops in World War I, fostered interest and involvement from an influential group of private collectors, established American scholarship on historical arms and armor, and laid the foundation for the continued growth of the collection into one of the most encyclopedic in the world today and one of the best loved and most visited galleries in the Museum.
To further mark the 100th anniversary of the department, several new cases have been installed in the Arms and Armor Galleries to display recent acquisitions; improved lighting has been introduced throughout the galleries; and all of the labels and signage have been upgraded.
A variety of education programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition and in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Department of Arms and Armor, including a Sunday at the Met on October 28 at 3:00 p.m., gallery talks and studio programs, and programs and services for visitors with disabilities. A Family Guide to the collection will also be published. Further details about the exhibition and related programs will be available at www.metmuseum.org.
A history of the Arms and Armor Department, written by Stuart W. Pyhrr, Curator in Charge of the Museum’s Arms and Armor Department, will also be published as the Summer 2012 Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.
The exhibition is organized by Donald J. La Rocca, Curator in the Museum’s Arms and Armor Department.
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September 26, 2012