The National Army Museum in Chelsea, London

A picture of Bex wearing a tall black furry Guardsman hat like the ones at Buckingham Palace

Would you believe me when I say The National Army Museum is like a beautiful art gallery for the Army’s history?

Well, you should. It’s beautiful, well thought through, in the heart of Chelsea a short walk from Sloane Square and it doesn’t cost a penny to go in!

I’ll just say, while I’m probably not the target demographic of the museum, I will definitely be keeping an eye out on its future exhibitions.

At the time of writing this there had just been an exhibition on graphic design and one opened on the day I went called Tribute Ink, based on armed forces tattoos.

What a great discovery!

Inside The National Army Museum

Newly refurbished the museum re-opened in 2017, and it’s been cleverly designed. It’s a very clean white space which allows the artefacts and displays to be the pop of colour and I really like that approach.

Rainbow ribbons attached to screens showing Army videos hang in the central forum and can be seen from all floors at The National Army Museum.

It reminded me of The Barbican in its style, it has a lot of floors, stairs and layers.

The hanging rainbow ribbon installation in front of the three floors of the museum.

It looks fairly open plan, there’s a large event space on the ground floor which is a focal central area which can be viewed from any level.

Five different Army uniforms from a long time period, old to modern.

 

On each floor I think you can probably find something for everyone from the die-hard traditional museum go-er to ways of displaying artefacts as art, interactive Ā games, film and quiet corners for contemplation.

The Lawrence of Arabia Army Outfit - made famous by the filmThe middle level is an open plan cafe and the comforting hustle and bustle of teas and coffees. The warm sounds of the chitter chatter over tea resonates alongside the noisier parts of the exhibitions and prevent it from being too quiet like an actual art gallery.

The museum portrays The Army right across the ages and runs right up to the modern day.

The Army over time starting from the 1600s to modern day. It's all on a colourful rainbow timeline art installation that's five boards that are taller than one floor of there museum.

Lots of it is naturally very thought provoking but it was the ‘Could you be a soldier?’ exhibition that actually made me consider the lifestyle an army recruit goes through.

The 'Could you be a soldier?' exhibition entrance, you walk in one side and it registers what you think when you go in and what you think when you come out.

The Society and the Army exhibition is a different angle compared to the rest of the museum, it’s full of engaging artefacts and shows the relationship between the service and who it protects. It ranges from fashion and film to the effect it’s had on our language.

The brightly coloured and more modern exhibition called 'Society and the Army'

While there’s lots of fun stuff there’s also some real hard hitting facts. The one artefact that really blew me away was a tiny bullet in a little lit box in the wall. The story behind the bullet was about its design and that it had a blunt end and it broke apart on impact and created more damage to whatever it hit. The officers that saw this design adopted this it by sanding down the end of their own bullets. I don’t know why this made me so sad but, it did – it was making something so destructive, even worse.

#SelfieInCamo The Hashtag Selfie in Camo encourages you to dress up in camp and take a picture to share this the museum, this is a selfie of me in an Army camo jacket.
#SelfieInCamo

Like I said, the more serious stuff was definitely balanced out by some lighter elements and it was a richer experience for offering an experience that wasn’t just one sided.

As you can tell, I had a lot of fun!

Bex wearing a big, tall Army Guardsman helmet, like the guards at Buckingham Palace

 

Tribute Ink

The newest exhibition when I visited was Tribute Ink, January – April 2020, and it was done by The British Royal Legion and focuses on the tattoo artwork synonymous with the armed forces.

The black and white Tribute Ink logo and sign for the exhibition

The exhibition featured service men and women, the ink and why its so important to the armed forces community.

A bust featuring tattoo art work.

The tattoos can act as a reminder of the experiences, camaraderie, highs, lows and as a personal commemoration or act of remembrance.

A bust with a tattoo of a traditional ship on the top half of an arm.

The mix of exhibitions at the museum are really interesting some with modern twists and others with a more traditional approach. This is a great addition which compliments the existing mix.

I was very lucky to be invited to the launch which was full of funny speeches about tattoos from people in the Army as well as the Museum Director. It was really great to see first hand how the tattoos really form a significant part of the Armed Forces story, it was a very accessible way for me to connect with something I’m very unconnected to.

A tank, painted in a camp pattern, in the middle of the museum entrance

The National Army Museum strikes a wonderful balance between a fun experience and the seriousness of the topic. I’ll be keeping a look on its upcoming exhibitions closely as I know there will be an interesting programme on and ones that I’ll want to head back to the museum for.

If you’re looking somewhere a bit different in London to look around, this might just be the museum for you!

Neon signs show some of the influences the Army have had on modern language

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