The Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts closed its doors for good a few weeks ago, and I'm in mourning. A steel-clad Art Deco-Gothic castle, it held the largest collection of medieval arms and armor in the Americas. I'm going to miss taking my kid there -- they had a great interactive area where you could try on helmets and armor, build giant block castles, and play dress-up. I'm stunned that they couldn't secure more public money to keep going. The only silver lining I see is that the bulk of the collection is heading down the hill to the Worcester Art Museum, but it won't be the same, of course.
I once spent a rainy April morning at the Higgins with no less a personage than Gary Gygax. It was 2003, and he had been invited to the armory to do a seminar on medieval weapons with Jeff Forgeng, one of the Higgins curators. About 30 of us waited for him in a dimly-lit chamber of the castle, with rain pelting on the windows. And waited. Finally he showed up, profusely apologetic -- he had failed his save against Worcester's spaghetti bowl of a road system. He settled into a kingly chair and the show got on the road. As the curator gently pulled answers out of him, Gary absently leafed through a century-old Bannerman's weapon catalog he'd brought along -- "Hmmm, here's a halberd, oh, they have a fauchard." He was grandfatherly and soft-spoken and candid. He said that when they were developing D&D, he used all the exotically-named pole arms to provide flavor, though he doubted that mechanically they were much different from one another in use. When someone asked him about the fundamentalist anti-D&D movement in the 80s, he grinned and said, "There's no such thing as bad publicity."
We took a stretch break and he went outside to smoke a Camel.
When he came back he did an autograph session. It was a bit like going to see The Great Oz. My wife said, "Gary, my husband is a really stingy DM. Can you do something about that?" He called for a scrap of paper and wrote "Good for 10,000 XPs — Original AD&D only!" She actually spent it on one of her characters as soon as we got home.
And here it is.