I am going to call this a preliminary review because I visited very soon after the museum reopened after a multi-year £20 million renovation, and it was clear that there were still some kinks to figure out. The museum itself is essentially brand new, and if you are a military history buff absolutely worth a visit in itself. I am going to confine my comments to my interactions with the Templar Study Center, the archival portion of the museum.
First, the staff at the Templar study center are extremely helpful even those who are volunteers. The primary archivist is intimately aware of the materials the museum holds, and I found him really open to my project and research. I was really pleased with every interaction with the employees here.
Location: The museum is located right by the historic Chelsea Hospital for military veterans. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from Sloane Square Tube stop, and it is easily accessible via bus if you do not want to walk.
The Templar Study Center is well lit, even though it is located in the basement of the building. There is a sky light that lets lots of light into the room. The seating is limited, so it would be best if you email ahead of time to reserve space. I got lucky and was able to just walk in, but I would not count on that in the future as more people become aware of the museum.
What to Know:
- The online catalog is not very helpful. This is a military museum, and they do not have much mention of gender/sexuality. For example, I was looking through an officer's personal papers and discovered a trove of correspondence written by his wife. There was no mention of this in the archive's catalogs.
- The system for requesting documents is still a bit old-school. You have to fill out a separate request form for each document, which a volunteer will then go try to find. Despite being recently reopened, there are still a number of items that I requested which did not exist or could not be found.
- The staff is rather slow to respond to emails. This poses a difficult challenge for international researchers. This is something that I feel will improve with time, but for now be sure that you give them at least a month to respond to your emails.
It is important to note that I do believe that these issues will improve with time. The staff was extremely helpful, and I strongly recommend this archive for anyone interested in the history of the British Army. It is an invaluable resource.
Edited by Jonathan
I am currently an Adjunct Professor of History at Lynchburg College in Virginia. I received my PhD in Modern British History from Florida State University in 2016. My research explores the way in which competing definitions of masculinity influenced army reform in the mid-nineteenth century. Civilians called for moral reforms; however, they were constantly hampered by politician and military officials' financial concerns. This work offers a number of interventions in the current historiography by exploring issues of corporal punishment, soldiers' sexuality, military suicide, and soldiers' families.