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Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department

Exhibition Objects

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Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department, 1904–1929

Program information

As part of a special Sunday at the Met program held in conjunction with the exhibition Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department, Donald J. La Rocca explains the founding and history of the department.

A zoologist by training, Bashfod Dean was for a time simultaneously a full professor at Columbia University, Curator of Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, and Curator of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum. At the Met, he worked initially as a guest curator in 1904, when he was invited to install and catalog the Museum's first significant acquisitions of arms and armor. He continued on as honorary curator until joining the staff full time in 1912 as head of the newly created Arms and Armor Department, rapidly building the collection into one of international importance.

Beyond Battle

Program Information

Arms and armor have been a vital part of virtually all cultures for thousands of years, pivotal not only in conquest and defense, but also in court pageantry and ceremonial events. Throughout time the best armor and weapons have represented the highest artistic and technical capabilities of the society and period in which they were made, forming a unique aspect of both art history and material culture.

The Arms and Armor Department celebrates one hundred years at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From tournaments to triumphs, Beyond Battle is a quiz that explores much more than war. Players put common myths and misconceptions about arms and armor to the test. Are you a knave or knight? Play the game to find out.

Game questions feature images of European and Japanese armors, and helmets, firearms, and swords from the permanent collection.

Additional content and information about the collection is available at www.metmuseum.org/armsandarmor.

Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department

October 2, 2012–October 13, 2014

Accompanied by a Bulletin

To mark the centennial of the Arms and Armor Department, this exhibition surveys the career of Dr. Bashford Dean (1867–1928), the department's founding curator. A zoologist by training, Dean was for a time simultaneously a full professor at Columbia University, Curator of Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, and Curator of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum. At the Met, he worked initially as a guest curator in 1904, when he was invited to install and catalog the Museum's first significant acquisitions of arms and armor. He continued on as honorary curator until joining the staff full time in 1912 as head of the newly created Arms and Armor Department, rapidly building the collection into one of international importance. In the process he fostered an influential group of private collectors, established American scholarship on the subject, and laid the foundations for the growth of the collection as it exists today.

Bashford Dean in Japanese Armor, ca. 1900