Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department

Bashford Dean in Japanese Armor, ca. 1900

Exhibition Objects

Featured Media

A Visit to the Armor Galleries

Program information

In the 1920s the Metropolitan began to explore filmmaking as part of its educational program, and in 1924 it released two films about arms and armor. In preparation for this new undertaking, Bashford Dean, the head of the Arms and Armor department, sought the advice of Hollywood professionals D. W. Griffith and John Barrymore. Once the scripts were complete, Dean left most of the actual work to his young assistant curators, Stephen V. Grancsay and Thomas T. Hoopes, who also appear in the films. A Visit to the Armor Galleries was especially popular and includes memorable scenes: a Gothic armor steps out of its vitrine to answer visitors' questions about the collection, a seesaw with a small child on one end and a medieval mail shirt on the other demonstrates the relatively modest weight of armor, and a fully armored knight on horseback gallops through Central Park, with Belvedere Castle (the park's weather station) rising picturesquely in the background. When actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. viewed the film at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, he pronounced it "bully."

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.

To download the app, please visit the iTunes App Store.

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.