Arsenal‘s move to the Emirates Stadium meant a chance to revamp their club museum. Time Out enjoyed a preview
New stadium, new museum. For a club as acutely aware of their past as Arsenal, the move to the Emirates Stadium represented a glorious opportunity: to celebrate the new while paying due tribute to 120 years of history, right back to 1886 and Dial Square FC – the original name, taken from a munitions site at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal where its founders were employed. Two of Dial Square’s members, Fred Beardsley and Morris Bates, were former Nottingham Forest players who had moved south for work. Needing kit, they wrote home for help and received a set of shirts and a ball. The shirts were redcurrant – a colour worn in tribute during the club’s final season at Highbury – paired with white shorts and blue socks.
Gone are the posters and galleries of the old museum, replaced by plasmas, projectors and interactivity. The artefacts, thankfully, remain: from the first season ticket costing three pounds 16 shillings – not far off what you’d pay for a matchday programme nowadays – to the trophy presented by the FA Premier League for remaining unbeaten throughout the 2003-04 season.
The key figure in the opening half of the museum is Herbert Chapman, who brought the club’s first period of major success. Having won the league twice with Huddersfield Town, his brief on arriving in London in 1925 was simple: ‘To turn the Gunners into the best team in England.’ He predicted it would take five years: in 1930, Arsenal beat Huddersfield 2-0 in the FA Cup final to usher in an eight-year spell when the Gunners won the First Division five times and the FA Cup twice.
Chapman’s approaches to tactics and training were revolutionary, though he did not live to see all of these achievements as he died of pneumonia in 1934. What’s more, he was behind the renaming of the nearby Tube station from Gillespie Road to Arsenal, cementing the club’s identity to every user of the Piccadilly Line.
Chapman also forms a link to the second part of the museum, which explores how players and managers feel about the club. As you move on, you hear Arsène Wenger talking about his ten years in charge and paying tribute to his illustrious predecessor: ‘Chapman changed and shaped the future of the club and that is something I am aiming for. I think you must try to take the club to a new level and leave behind a legacy.’ Quotations embossed on the walls enhance this idea: ‘Reward is a shared responsibility. Intelligent players always understand the real star is the team and what they give to the team, the team gives back to them.’ That’s Wenger again, of course.
Interactive sections explore themes such as ‘The Arsenal Spirit’ and ‘The Invincibles’, while exhibits include Michael Thomas’s boots from the title-winning game at Anfield in 1989, Charlie George’s 1971 FA Cup final shirt, and medals, caps and shirts from the likes of Sammy Nelson, David O’Leary, Pat Jennings and George Graham. You can join ‘Legends’ tours with such names from the past to glean inside knowledge and anecdotes.
Earlier this year, the revitalised Lawn Tennis Museum at Wimbledon joined ever-popular Lord’s and Twickenham as essential visits for sports fans with a sense of history. The Arsenal Museum is a worthy addition to that list. Even non-Gooners might enjoy it.
The Arsenal Museum is situated by the north bridge of the Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, N5 1BU. Open daily 10am-6pm. Adm £6 (£3 concs, £2 Junior Gunners).
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