A Visit to the Armor Galleries

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.”

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