Purpose and mission
Founded in 1896 in Dresden, the “Verein für historische Waffenkunde” was the precursor of today’s organisation. In 1921, the thematic scope was extended to include research into clothing and textiles. In 1944, during the Second World War, the Society was forced to discontinue its activities and officially ceased to exist in 1949. In 1951, it was newly established in Berlin as the “Gesellschaft für Historische Kostüm- und Waffenkunde” and evolved into the “Gesellschaft für Historische Waffen- und Kostümkunde e. V.” in 1959, again in Berlin.
The Society provides a forum for all those who are professionally or personally involved in the study of historical arms, armour and clothing. Museums, universities and other institutions are important contributors. Research on historical arms and their accessories is on an equal footing with the scientific study of dress culture throughout history. More recently, material science and technological issues as well as contributions from experimental research have been added to its programme.
The Society regards itself as an international platform for the exchange and dissemination of information covering all facets of arms and armour, spanning from historical blade weapons to firearms and armour. Military aspects play a role here, as does the importance of the pieces as works of art with all its cultural-historical facets. The Society places its main focus on the period from Antiquity to the middle of the 19th century. Consequently, the study of modern weapons is not part of its field of research. In addition to experts from the world’s most important museums, the Society’s members include specialists from major auction houses, conservators and collectors from a wide range of disciplines.
The Society also presents itself as an international forum for the history of dress and fashion. During the 1920s, an additional focus was placed on the manifold relationships between armament and male clothing, but the focus soon shifted to an entire range of topics within the history of clothing. In the meantime, traditional costume studies have been replaced by a broad range of scholarly research into historical dress including civil and military uniformology. This research addresses a variety of subjects in the anthropological, technological and ethnological examination of apparel as well as under the lens of cultural, military and textile history. In contrast to the field of arms history, research in this field extends into the present day.
As a scholarly association, the Society places great value on sound diversity of opinion and new insights in research and teaching.
Results of the Society’s scientific work are published in the journal “Waffen- und Kostümkunde”. Since its inception in 1897, the journal is in its third series today. Subscription to “Waffen- und Kostümkunde” is included in the membership fee. It is published biannually, consists of a total of approximately 100 pages per issue, and is of particular interest to curators of public and private collections as well as for scholars of various disciplines. The journal aims at experts in the history of arms and dress, art and cultural historians, ethnologists, archaeologists and conservators. The publication also offers a wealth of information for those specialised in the arts and antiques trade, costume designers and prop makers in theatre, film and television.
Conferences and excursions
The sharing of knowledge, regular meetings – in particular the biennial conferences – offer the members of the Society the opportunity to attend lectures and discuss new research findings. These meetings are held at venues having significant collections of historical arms, armour and dress, with the respective museums acting as hosts. Every two years, in alternation with the conferences, the Society organises special excursions to equally outstanding collections.