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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
British history wows US market
Decorated helmet
This 16th Century helmet is among the Royal Armouries' exports
Two major British exhibitions are going on display stateside, as UK museums and heritage sites capitalise on interest from across the Atlantic.

The Royal Armouries is to become the first national British museum to open a permanent exhibition overseas.

Meanwhile treasures from the late Duke of Devonshire's Chatsworth House began a 19-month US tour in March.

University of Manchester's Dr Ian Scott said classical British history has "quite a market" in the US.

Young nation

The Royal Armouries has shipped more than 300 key pieces of arms and armour to the new Frazier Historical Arms Museum, in Louisville, Kentucky.

The collection of British and European exhibits will take up an entire floor when the 17.5m site opens on 22 May.

"America is a relatively young nation and therefore for the majority of the population, its heritage is European," a Royal Armouries spokesman said.

"To tell their story of the European heritage, they've got to go to Europe to get the artefacts."

Tapping into the American market and finance is the way to go
University of Manchester lecturer Dr Ian Scott
American Studies lecturer Dr Scott said: "The clear connection between British and American history is important, and these subjects are taught in American colleges and universities.

"Their interest in something like the Royal Armouries is not surprising, given the backdrop that classical British history - the Middle Ages, great figures, battles - has quite a market in the United States."

The Chatsworth House exhibition, including more than 200 works of art, opened in New York on 18 March and will tour museums in Massachusetts, Florida, Alabama and Texas.

The collection spans 500 years and also includes furniture, architectural drawings, display plate in gold and silver, porcelain, engraved gems and jewellery, scientific instruments, letters, photographs and books.

International brand

Dr Scott said American interest in British culture had received a boost in recent years.

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire
The touring Chatsworth exhibition includes rarely-seen pieces
"Cool Britannia had quite a resonance in the United States," he said.

"And the whole Diana-Charles business is thoroughly engrossing to Americans. They love the soap opera of it and the regal associations."

He said the Royal Armouries' project was similar to recent ventures in Britain by American institutions.

"It's quite natural for British cultural institutions to expand in the same way. Tapping into the American market and finance is the way to go.

"Places like the National Gallery, the BFI and Imperial War Museum will look at doing the same if this is successful."

The Armouries spokesman said its venture was "a springboard for holding travelling exhibitions in the US, and launching the Royal Armouries as an international brand".

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