The Arms Museum is one of the oldest museums in Liège; it opened in 1885, on the initiative of the municipal authorities and thanks to the initial donation of a local arms producer, Pierre-Joseph Lemille. This is how the desire, which had been expressed by various authorities, to provide our city with a permanent structure entirely dedicated to one of its most characteristic industries – arms – came to be. At that time, and for a long time before, Liège was indeed one of the principal cities in the world for the production of portable weapons.
The Arms Museum, which is still one of the leading museums of its genre internationally to this day, was located in the former hotel of Hayme de Bomal, which was formerly owned by Lemille; it occupied this until its integration into the Grand Curtius museum complex that opened in 2009.
Thus the Arms department of the Grand Curtius is the heir to the Arms Museum. It contains several thousand firearms, as well as cold weapons, which come not only from the important production centre of Liège, but also from other regions around the world.
Its collections, which cover every period in the history of weaponry, are of major interest from both a technical and aesthetic point of view, in as far as they contain, among many other exceptional pieces, some masterpieces of applied art (engraving, chiselling, inlaying, etc.).
Faced with this heritage of inestimable value, the Grand Curtius Arms department launched a thorough overhaul of their presentation two years ago, which will gradually see them located in the splendid and monumental palace built sometime around 1600 by Jean Curtius, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune in the trade of arms and gunpowder, and an ammunitions officer for the Spanish army, whose residence now bears his name.
The collections are being installed gradually. 20 September 2018 saw the inauguration of the first of three stages in this complete renovation on the first floor of the Curtius Palace, with the section dedicated to civilian weapons (hunting and sports) and defence weapons (pistols and revolvers), which now display some six hundred remarkable pieces from gunsmith history between the 16th and 21st centuries.
Subsequently, on the second and third floors, military weapons and cold weapons from the Middle Ages to the present day, and ethnological weapons, will be on display. In the next two years, between two and three thousand weapons will be installed on the first three floors of the Curtius Palace. Some ceremonial weapons and other trading weapons, as well as symbols and insignia of power, flags and decorations of all kinds will complete this representative overview of the exceptional richness and diversity of our collections.
Thus, in keeping with its roots, one of the gems of Liège's heritage, which is likely to attract both Belgian and foreign visitors. will be reborn in progressive steps.