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Short Read

What has the National Army Museum ever done for us?

Here at the National Army Museum in London, we tell the story of our Army from the 1640s to today. Founded in 1960 by Royal Charter and established for the purpose of collecting, preserving and exhibiting objects and records relating to the Land Forces of the British Crown it is a museum that moves, inspires, challenges, educates and entertains. With more than 2,500 objects in five permanent galleries, and a 500 square metre temporary exhibition space, we use the personal experiences of the soldiers who have served to show how the Army has shaped the world around us. It’s an international story, both in where the Army has operated and is prepared to go in future, and those who have served. We tell those stories through our displays, an active public programme of free lectures, specialist talks, and evening events.

And while our exhibits may talk about the Army’s campaigning history, there’s a huge amount that we can offer in the here and now. As Mark Twain supposedly said, history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. As historians, we know you can learn a huge amount from the past. It shows us how we got to where we are, and provides clues and answers to how we might tackle problems in the present.

So what can the National Army Museum do for you? We want to work closer with the Army across a whole variety of activities. We can be a base for community engagement, as there is a fantastic opportunity for the serving Army to use us as a bridge to wider engagement with a public that are interested in finding out more about what it means to serve in the present, as well as the past. More than 240,00 people a year visit us to learn more about the Army, and they love seeing serving soldiers in the Museum alongside our historical displays. In the past we’ve hosted specific days in partnership with Army units such as the Household Cavalry, which drew 1,600 people to the Museum. We recently had a Challenger 2 of the King’s Royal Hussars parked outside for the day to help celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Royal Armoured Corps. All of these encourage visitors to the Museum to learn directly from you, the serving Army, and get up close to your kit.  

We also actively collect historic and contemporary material relating to the Army, its soldiers, and its campaigns all the time, which we use to tell stories about how the Army operates. In any given month we may acquire new material relating to anything from the Boer War or Op SHADER. This could be a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the places and operations the Army serves in – and can help the Army win the narrative about who and what it is and does, and the impact it continues to have on the world stage.

But the Museum can offer so much more to the serving Army beyond a venue for public engagement. Our historians and curators can provide bespoke tours, or help plan and deliver force development days, battlefield studies, and professional military education. If you want to be better, we can help you do it. Whatever you’re planning, if it’s a study course ahead of an assessment, or even just a day off camp for your soldiers, we’re standing by to assist. Just contact info@nam.ac.uk and let’s start the conversation.

We’re a resource that many people won’t have heard of, but we’re here to help. And we’re free. It’s your history that we sit on after all, and we want to help you engage with the past so that you can be better in the present and future. The British Army is an army that has innovated, adapted, and thrived, in some of the most challenging circumstances possible. Learning about that can inspire new ways of thinking about the present.

So while you may not have been here before, or even heard of us, we’re here and ready to go. Looking forward to seeing you in Chelsea soon.

Dr P Johnston

Dr Peter Johnston is the Head of Research and Academic Access at the National Army Museum. He joined the Museum in 2014 as the Collections Content Manager, responsible for running the curatorial team working on the new displays, before becoming Head of Acquisitions in 2017. He spends the majority of his time conducting research and working with academics and the Army. He has acted as an expert and accompanying academic on battlefield studies from Flanders to the Falklands - most recently the Op REFLECT Army Staff Ride in October 2018 and Ex STAFFORD FLANDERS STONE in April 2019. He is currently working on his first book, on the British Army in Germany since 1945. 

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