From knights in shining armour to hockey goalies to Iron Man, the Canadian War Museum’s new exhibition Armour takes a new look at protective gear across time and cultures.
hsd worked with the Museum to showcase the extraordinary medieval and Renaissance armour on loan from the Italian Museo Stibbert collection, while drawing connections to our contemporary use of protective gear. The interpretive approach creates four zones in the exhibition—Battle, Sports, Status, and Culture—that encourage visitors to consider all the ways we protect and elevate our physical form.
Technical mastery is highlighted in displays of gilded and engraved body armour paired with line drawings that describe the function of different elements. The evolution of both weapons and armour material, from jousting equipment to modern Canadian combat uniforms, tells the story of centuries-old arms races. And since battle metaphors abound in sports, it’s no surprise that sports gear shares similarities with combat armour. Yet, the hi-tech design of sport-protection gear has leapt ahead of its medieval inspirations, shown in the sports headgear displays from leather to titanium, football to cycling.
The connections between past and present continue throughout the exhibit. Heroes of ancient times find their contemporaries in popular culture icons Mad Max and Iron Man, and the protective gear of hockey goaltender Shannon Szabados calls back to that of elaborate jousting equipment.
Museum displays of armour have often relied on traditional recreations of historic scenarios. For Armour, hsd instead designed an innovative approach that draws visitors into centuries-old tales of bravery and ingenuity that appeal to everyone —from Renaissance experts and military buffs to sports enthusiasts and superhero fans.
All images ©Canadian War Museum