The Royal Armouries has been awarded £429,600 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the rollout of a transformative Digital Vision project. This substantial funding award comes as the Royal Armouries Museum marks the 25th anniversary of its opening in Leeds.

When the purpose-built museum opened on 30th March 1996, the aim was to tell the story of the objects in the national collection of arms and armour and bring the subject to life for a new audience.

Over the last 25 years, over six million people have visited its five galleries and 8,500 objects on display in Leeds.

This project extends those principles of widening participation to the digital sphere, and will enable the Royal Armouries to engage new audiences at a time when online experiences are ever more critical.

The Royal Armouries digital ambitions are to attract, empower and engage audiences with one of the world’s greatest collections of arms and armour and to create a ‘digital first’ culture throughout the museum. The rollout of the project will:

  • transform the museum’s capacity to produce accessible, engaging, and relevant digital content for its growing audiences;
  • deliver a seamless online experience, enabling audiences to draw media from across the museum’s digital resource in a user-friendly way;
  • create relationships with online visitors based on a more detailed understanding of what they expect and need from their digital museum experience;
  • develop and install a new welcome in the form of a digital playground on site at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Digital volunteers will be key to the project’s success and the Royal Armouries looks forward to working with an advisory panel made up of volunteers with an interest in creating new digital content to tell the stories of the collection.

Dr Edward Impey, Director General & Master of the Armouries said: “What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds than by announcing our innovative digital plans. Thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to harness the power of digital to reach even more audiences and to share the wonders of our world-leading collection of arms and armour”.

David Renwick, Area Director for the North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “It is fantastic news that thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to support the Royal Armouries with this forward-looking digital project.

“The Covid-19 crisis has shown us the value of engaging digitally with communities and so we are keen to support projects that use digital innovation to connect people with their heritage. Whilst everyone is keen to get back to engaging with heritage directly, it is important to develop all channels that help open up important collections to wider audiences.”

Claire Cox, Head of Development at the Royal Armouries said: “We are delighted with this award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and thank all the staff and volunteers for their hard work in helping us to prepare for the bid.

“This project was already a priority for the Royal Armouries but with the emergence of Covid-19 and its impact on us and the communities we serve, it has become even more important to our future.

“The new digital content we developed during lockdown has already proved successful, but we can achieve so much more with this support. We are enormously grateful to The Heritage Fund for supporting this project at a time of uncertainty for the heritage sector”.