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A Renaissance for the Higgins Armory Collection at WAM

Close helmet for combat at the barriers. Augsburg, about 1590 (HAM 2205.a)
Close helmet for combat at the barriers. Augsburg, about 1590 (HAM 2205.a)

The integration of the John Woodman Higgins Armory collection into the Worcester Art Museum is transformative. As we embrace the spirit of the Higgins collection, WAM is re-imagining the way we communicate the story of our collections to create more meaningful connections for you with the works of art in our care. The Higgins collection provides an unrivaled opportunity for the Museum to offer a whole new level of positive, fun and meaningful programs and experiences for our visitors, and in particular, for children and families. The stories that we share through art will continue to evolve and grow over time as we navigate this exciting next chapter in the Museum's history.

Thanks to lead support provided by five local foundations, the Museum is able to open the temporary exhibition Knights! within three months of the closing of the Higgins Armory Museum. The jump start funding also enables a re-tooling of the Museum's existing facilities to improve universal accessibility and promote family-friendly use.  We are grateful to the following foundations for providing a solid start to this new venture:

The George I. Alden Trust
Fred Harris Daniels Foundation, Inc
The Fletcher Foundation
The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation
The Stoddard Charitable Trust

Below is our current thinking about how the Higgins collection and spirit will be integrated into that of WAM. It may, and probably will, change as we march boldly forward with this undertaking. We hope that you will accompany us on this exciting journey until and beyond the opening of the permanent arms and armor galleries!

March 29, 2014: Knights!, a major arms and armor exhibition opens, featuring works from both the Higgins and WAM collections. Knights! will break new ground in the display of arms and armor through story-telling, time and culture. It will also feature innovative and experimental programming for children and families.

2015 - 2017: The addition of 2,000 works of arms and armor will demand much attention behind the scenes as we prepare the collection for its permanent galleries.

2018+: Fortunately, WAM doesn't need to add a new wing to house the Higgins collection. The Library at the entrance to the galleries will be transformed into a soaring multi-level gallery befitting the collection it will hold. To make space, we will relocate the Library within the Museum campus.

2019+: When completed, the permanent arms and armor gallery will greet visitors as they enter the galleries from Lancaster Street. The newly re-opened space will feature 4,000 sq. ft. of galleries on two floors, with a Grand Hall on the upper level and “open storage” on the lower one. The entire core collection will be on view for the first time ever, and the open storage will allow an unprecedented level of interaction with the included objects. Equally exciting: The Grand Hall will be enhanced by our Spanish Ceiling (before 1500), and especially, by our monumental tapestry of The Last Judgment (around 1500), which is being restored after more than two decades in storage.

The Higgins collection and spirit will now find a new permanent home in the good company of our existing encyclopedic collections and innovative programs that you all know and cherish.