Opened to the public in December 2016, visitors can explore historical characters associated with the Tower’s various defensive, ceremonial and administrative functions through time. Six distinct historical periods spanning from the Norman Conquest to the present day have been included, with interpretation focussing on the unique roles, weapons or tools and skills of each historical character. These roles include that of Master Mason, Archer, Armourer, Captain of Artillery, Cavalryman and Superintendent.

“It has been a great pleasure working with the Royal Armouries team again at the Tower of London. The Armoury in Action exhibition explores the working lives of those who served and protected the Tower,” said Ron Watson, hsd project manager. “The visitor experience focuses on a variety of interactive exhibits, providing activity and engagement for all user groups.”

The interactive parts of the exhibit are based around the job that each character performed. A well-planned mixture of mechanical and digital interactives allows visitors to test their own skills and gain an understanding of what was required to successfully fulfil each role.

From firing a cannon to dressing Henry VIII in his armour, visitors can try out an array of skills. For younger audiences there is a friendly mouse character who guides them through the centuries and roles, providing fun historical information.

John Pearson, hsd in-house illustrator created the mouse character, as well as other historical illustrations used within the new exhibit and worked with the Royal Armouries and Historic Royal Palaces project team to develop the illustrative style and detailed drawings for the Armoury in Action exhibition.

“From design concept, historical consultation, to full illustration, it was intended that the visual material should be exciting, historically accurate and accessible,” he said. “The use of illustrations really helps to reach out and communicate with the Tower’s many non-English speaking visitors.”

The brief for this exhibition expressed the need to create an engaging, sustainable and family-friendly experience, as well as catering for the very high visitor numbers who are welcomed to the Tower each year. The Armoury in Action gallery is located at the exit to the White Tower and queues to leave the building can form in peak times.

hsd’s gallery layout was based on an intuitive route which is easy to navigate and to interact with. Freedom of movement they said was vital in allowing visitors to explore the space in their own way and to help self-regulate the space during peak visiting hours. This freedom of movement also helps to accommodate large numbers of visitors with varying dwell times and levels of interest, by dissipating them throughout the gallery space.

While visitors are free to choose their own route through the space, the graphic design and material choices creates a unified aesthetic experience and underpins the chronological narrative. The graphic styling, with use of different colours and icons for each of the interpretive zones, enables visitors to understand where they are in time as they journey through the exhibit.

The new Armoury in Action exhibit opened to the public on December 15, 2016 with a family-friendly launch event, and has already proved to be extremely popular. “We have revisited the exhibition a couple of times since its opening and we are delighted to hear from the client team that Armoury in Action gallery really achieves its objectives,” said project manager Ron Watson.

Other current projects in the hsd portfolio include the new Postal Museum and Mail Rail experience due to open later this year, the Museum of Royal Worcester and Charterhouse Coventry.

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