The Royal Armouries, one of the world's most impressive collections of arms and armour, has been housed in the Tower of London for more than 450 years . However, space restrictions have always meant that only 10 per cent of the collection could be seen at any one time. But from March 30, much of what has remained unseen will be on show at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
Built at a cost of Pounds 42 million, the massive new waterside museum will hold over 10,000 exhibits, seven cinemas, and will feature jousting tournaments, falconry displays and martial arts demonstrations. The main attraction will be five themed galleries devoted to war, the Orient, hunting, tournaments and self-defence, with each gallery making use of the latest developments in interactive technology. Other attractions include a satellite "newsroom", which will display pictures of current conflicts from all parts of the world on to a giant video-wall.
Museum education officer Annabelle Wigner is confident of the museum's educational appeal. "We hope that pupils and students will take away something they'll remember for the rest of their lives," she says. "We offer a welcoming environment in which they can enjoy the museum's resources, including state-of-the-art computers, original and replica artefacts, and facilities for role play."
Some of the schools activities have been specially developed by Royal Armouries staff. These include stories animated with glove puppets for early learners, as well as talks for key stage 2 pupils on the armours of Henry VIII. Key stage 4 students will be able to compare Japanese and English armour design, while for all art students there are facilities for calligraphy, three-dimensional construction, photography and airbrush projects.
The museum will also offer a series of special workshops on a wide variety of subjects, including the Cat and Mouse Act of 1913, the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the revolutionary black commander-in-chief of Haiti. Details of all the museum's attractions are being sent to more than 10,000 schools around the country.
Royal Armouries Museum. The Waterfront, Leeds. Opening times: 10am5pm (winter) 10am6pm (summer).
Prices: adult Pounds 6.95, student Pounds 5.95,child Pounds 3.95, student group Pounds 5.95, child group Pounds 3.50 per person, school group Pounds 3.50. Reduced admission after 3pm. Adult Pounds 4.95, child Pounds 2.95