In our work at Arms & Armor, and doing research as The Oakeshott Institute, we have been lucky enough to visit many of the great museums. In our recent posts about some of these visits we heard back on how many of you hope to do the same. We would encourage you to do so, but also to look for more regional and smaller institutions. One of our favorites, close to us in the midwest, is the Castlerock Museum in Alma WI. It packs a great deal into a small space and covers a wide range of objects with some really lovely examples of arms and armor.
The collection has examples from ancient to renaissance and will be adding a room of fire arms covering a lot of 18th and 19th C examples over the next year or two. The displays are contextual and not only cover weapons of war and side arms, but also hunting, which was considered an excellent practice for martial combat in the medieval period.
In a museum like this it is often the collection of one person, in this case Judge, Gary B. Schlosstein, a life long collector of arms and armor. He focused on collecting that exemplified the development of weapons over time and thus had a unique collection to create such a wide ranged exhibit. This allows the visitor to see the evolution over time of several different forms of weapon and armor.
The collection has some of my favorite examples of polearms that I know of. The group they have covers very workman like pieces of the common soldier to some nice examples of parade pieces. The polearm rack on the lower floor also demonstrates how one would find such pieces stored in armouries across Europe in the day.
Polearms in rack at Castlerock Museum
17th C Pikemen
The collection shows pieces of art and illustrations to place the items in context and show not only the weapon but how it was used. The diversity for a collection of this size is impressive and allows one to get a real taste of the subject.
Craig presenting the "Birth of the Longsword" at Castlerock Museum
We have presented a lecture at the museum in their presentation space in the past. We covered the development of the longsword as a weapon in European history and how it grew in popularity. We also touched on the how today our view of the weapon may be more influenced by Hollywood than history.
The museum also hosts several presentations by crafts people and reenactors covering different elements of history and the artifacts that were used. One of our crew has been volunteering there for several years and can often be seen in his "kit" demonstrating how medieval soldiers fought.
These are always very family orientated and can make for a great experience for the student of arms as well as the rest of the family. So we encourage you to experience this great place if you are ever in the upper midwest traveling along the mighty Mississippi!
Did Patrick win?
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985