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What Is the Royal Artillery Museum?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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The Royal Artillery Museum is a museum with items and displays revolving around the artillery units of the British military. It is located at the site of the former Royal Arsenal in the Woolwich district of London, England. Parts of the collection date back to 1778 when items of interest began to be collected at the arsenal. Modern displays at the museum are centered on changing technology in the field of artillery weapons and the experiences of the service members, called gunners, who worked with the equipment.

In the British military order all gunners are part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery; the overall Regiment, however, is made up of actual service regiments, many of whom are represented in the Royal Artillery Museum. Historic uniforms, guns and service awards are on display along with memorabilia of daily life in the field. Models, pictures and prints and personal journals are also part of the Royal Artillery Museum collection. The James Clavell Library, open to the public, houses many of the print items.

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One entire gallery is given over to the story of artillery in the 20th century. Examples of self-propelled guns, missile launchers and anti-tank guns are among the exhibits, while informational displays cover the lives and experiences of the gunners of the different periods. The Field of Fire exhibit has large screens on all four walls and shows both archival and documentary films. To enhance the experience the room shakes when guns in the films are fired; smoke fills the air and searchlights are played in the air to simulate the battlefield experience. Interactive displays allow visitors to try firing artillery pieces to destroy enemy targets.

At the Royal Artillery Museum the public can take part as a volunteer in many ways. Guiding tours, setting up exhibits and research are some of the opportunities. Staff and friends of the museum are involved in collecting oral history from surviving service members and invites the public to help with that project.

The British Royal Arsenal served the nation from the same site in Woolwich from the 16th century until 1994. Its primary mission was research and manufacturing of items of ordnance. Collection of artillery items was originally started by the Arsenal staff and the collection was housed there from 1778 until a fire in 1802. The Royal Artillery Museum was then housed in various public buildings near the Arsenal until it returned to the site of the Arsenal in 2001, after the arsenal had closed.

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