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Collecting Cultures

We encounter arms and armour on a regular basis in films, television, literature and art. These elaborate props and costumes can inspire and intrigue us.

Through the Collecting Cultures project, we seek to explore, extend and maximise the impact of the national collection of arms and armour using fantastic items of arms and armour made famous by popular culture.

Project Overview

‘Collecting Cultures: Arms and Armour in Popular Culture’ has been supported with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, our project seeks to look at arms and armour through the lens of popular culture, which is increasingly the gateway through which the public are exposed to the subject.

Expanding on existing collections, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy swords, ‘James Bond’ firearms and a ‘vampire killing kit’, we will acquire a capsule collection to present a more familiar ‘filter’ through which our audiences can view the subject of arms and armour. We hope that this will in-turn empower and encourage new audiences to explore our existing collections with greater confidence and understanding.

We will be looking to acquire a selection of ‘star’ pieces, mainly from major film releases as well as production-used and screen-used examples of blank-converted and prop items. In addition, we will seek to procure supporting archive material in the form of concept art, armourer’s drawings, and written and oral testimonies relating to the objects as well as to the films themselves.

As well as expanding our collections, we will deliver a programme of public and staff engagement on the theme of arms and armour in popular culture. Through internal and external workshops and activities, we aim to explore the academic significance of these objects, and in turn better inform the wider public of their importance and relevance.


M-41A Pulse Rifle made for the Ridley Scott movie ‘Aliens’ (1986) and refurbished for the sequel ‘Alien 3’ (1992)

Durza’s (Robert Carlyle) hero sword and scabbard from the 2006 film Eragon.

1960s replica sword and dagger previously owned by fight director Henry Marshall.

Lancelot’s hero armour worn in the production of John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981). Starring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne.

Godfrey’s (Liam Neeson) / Balian’s (Orlando Bloom) retractable special effects sword from the Ridley Scott crusade adventure Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Prop ‘steampunk’ pistol from the 2003 movie ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’.

Prop ‘steampunk’ submachine gun from the 2003 movie ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’.

The Lord Marshal’s ornately decorated and highly detailed hero costume from the film the ‘Chronicles of Riddick’.

‘Orcrist’ – ‘Goblin cleaver’: the sword of Thorin Oakenshield. Artists Proof designed and made by Paul Tobin and Peter Lyon, who made the original prop for the motion picture trilogy ‘The Hobbit’ (2012-14)

‘Sting’ – the sword of Frodo Baggins. Artists Proof designed and made by designer Daniel Falconer and Peter Lyon who made the original prop for the motion picture trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-3)

‘Glamdring’: the sword of Gandalf. Artists Proof designed and made by designer Ben Wooten and Peter Lyon who made the original prop for the motion picture trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-3)

‘Anduril’ – the flame of the West: the sword of Aragorn. Limited edition made by Peter Lyons, who made the original prop for the motion picture trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-3)

Black fibreglass helmet for the Fedayeen Saddam (men of sacrifice) founded by Saddam Hussain’s son Uday Hussain in 1995. Uday was a fan of the Star Wars films, and the Fedayeen helmet was based on that of Darth Vader in the movies.

Vampire killing kit, about 1970.