Castello Sforzesco's Armory
Display cases retrofitting and maintenance

Image © Andrea Jemolo

Milan, Italy


One of the many treasures found in Milan’s Museo d'Arte Antica (Museum of Ancient Art) is the Armory – a superb collection of European armor and weapons spanning the late 14th to 19th

The collection was amassed over many years, and includes some major private donations. It is also notable for its unusual variety: not only does it display ceremonial armor worn on official occasions by the upper echelons of society, but also pieces that were actually used by the military of the time – literally, the men at the sharp end of the sword.

Goppion first worked with the Armory back in 1999, when our team delivered the engineering and fabrication of gallery display cases and object mounts, based on a design by Studio BBPR of Milan.

We created a series of bespoke freestanding showcases shaped like truncated pyramids. These were made entirely of extra-clear laminated glass, with photo-welded edges, and a steel base. Each display case had custom interior fittings and unusual design for access: they could be opened via a diagonal extension of the two halves of the hood.

Goppion also produced a small number of wall-mounted hanging display cases, with steel frame and extra-clear laminated front glass. These all came with custom lighting, lateral sliding door and passive climate control. Additionally, we produced custom mounts for helmets on display, plus interpretation panels.

In 2021, just over two decades on, Goppion returned to the Armory. This time, our task was to perform scheduled maintenance on the display cases, completely retrofitting them to install the latest technologies and provide longer life for protecting their valuable contents.We also created a special support for the display of a 14th-century cuirass (which is a two-piece section of armor for protecting the torso). Given the object’s age and extreme fragility, we developed custom-shaped soft ‘cushions’ to protect it while on display. We also introduced a multi-tiered metal structure, which enables the inner face of the breastplate to be viewed by visitors. This adjustable support includes a special powder coating for the conservation of the extremely delicate cuirass, and an integrated dimmable LED pane. While keeping the original design of the existing cases, we completely upgraded and refurbished them with new, laminated security glass, gaskets, seals and mechanical opening systems, and we resurfaced the interior wooden fittings of the wall cases.

Our work at Castello Sforzesco's Armory is a good example of Goppion’s commitment to the importance of regularly scheduled maintenance of display systems, and where required, upgrading of supporting conservation technologies. This guarantees their full functionality and top performance over longer periods. Retrofitting existing cases – instead of creating new ones from scratch – is also an integral aspect of our approach to economic and environmental sustainability, for both our company and our clients.