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In 2014, people still reach for a rifle designed in 1891.

You haven't won yet, Mervin! You didn't expect us to even go to a museum, much less steal this ancient heat-seeking missile!

Cutting-edge technology is usually superior to the older stuff. But sometimes heroes can't use the latest equipment: it may have been destroyed, stolen, confiscated, or rendered inoperable by the enemy's Applied Phlebotinum or the Alien Space Bats. So what do they do? They take the older stuff out of storage and make do with it. Strangely enough, the ancient devices still seem to work just fine.

May lead to Chekhov's Gun or Chekhov's Exhibit, if said museum piece has been noted earlier in the plot. See also Rock Beats Laser and Older Is Better. Can sometimes be connected to Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better.

Examples of Break Out the Museum Piece include:

Anime and Manga

  • The entire premise of Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Star Blazers), although the Yamato has been extensively retrofitted with state-of-the-art weaponry (including the Wave Motion Gun) and the engines have been replaced so it can complete its mission IN SPACE! Only the hull and superstructure are preserved from the original.
  • Cowboy Bebop:
    • 'Wild Horses', the Space Shuttle Columbia makes an appearance - a crazy old man has spent the last couple of decades restoring it to working order, and pulls it out on one last flight to save the day when Spike's state-of-the-art Swordfish space-fighter is disabled by a computer-virus. (For added museum-piece value, it's towed out of the hangar by a WWII-era tank) The rescue is a success, but the shuttle is thoroughly trashed during the reentry and landing... This is often thought of as Too Soon, but it aired before the accident happened.
    • There was also the episode "Speak Like a Child" where Faye receives an old Beta VCR tape that might contain clues to her past, so Spike and Jet scour the solar system looking for a working Beta VCR.
    • Towards the end of the movie a number of museum piece aircraft are brought out. Some of the designs don't exist yet and some are museum pieces in the present day. Unlike usual, many of them are in... less than ideal working condition. Thankfully the pilots all had parachutes.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam F91, a crazy old man brings out a Transforming Mecha tank to fight off the Crossbone Vanguard invaders... and gets severely thrashed by their newer machines.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the final battle between Setsuna and Ribbons sees them trashing their incredibly powerful new Gundams and forced to pilot their originals, Exia and 0 Gundam (albeit with some upgrades).
    • In Gundam Wing the Tallgeese is the first military mobile suit ever made, but it was never used because it was so overpowered that it killed all the test pilots. When the Gundams appear and start ripping OZ's new models limb from limb, a student of Zechs Merquise's suggests using the Tallgeese specifically because it's overpowered, meaning it might match the Gundams. It's Lampshaded in the anime when a soldier comments he didn't know Zechs flew "antiques".
      • This can happen mainly because the military is still using the weakened version of Tallgeese, the Leo (weakened so pilots don't get killed by the G-Force at full throttle) as its main battle weapon. It is only a museum piece because it is the first prototype, too powerful to pilot and see combat, not because it is super old. It fits more in the Super Prototype trope.
    • The EMS-04 Zudah in MS IGLOO is a peculiar example. Having lost out to the Zaku I for the role of Zeon's main fighting machine (due to a habit of exploding when flying too fast). The prototype Zudah are later pulled out again, renumbered the EMS-10 and touted as new Superweapons in a desperate bid of propaganda. Only the suit's genuinely high performance makes up for the fact that the truth was quickly discovered by the enemy.
    • In episode 4 of Gundam Unicorn, the Zeon Remnants of Earth take to attacking the EFSF's Torrington Base with One Year War relics, with their commander even going to battle in a Zaku Sniper, although Loni has the Shamblo, courtesy of the Sleeves. The Sleeves themselves supplemented the attack (and earlier, defended Palau), with a mix of new mobile suits and a couple from the Gryps Conflict. The attack was effective but ultimately ended in failure once the remnants lost their advantage when the Shamblo's psycommu malfunctions and Loni goes berserk, even more so when the Byalant-Kai and the Jesta team arrive.
      • Not to be outdone, the EFSF also broke out infantry use, guided anti-MS missiles, like the ones Lieutenant Barberry and his anti-MS teams used and their own Gryps Conflict mobile suits. The Gryps Conflict, admittedly, isn't too long ago for the time's mobile suits to be considered obsolete (just nine years) as they're still being widely used by all sides.
      • The Remnant's earlier attack on Dakar was much more successful.
  • Happens in Shin Getter Robo when reptilian duplicates of the protagonists hijack the Getter G. They even have to get the original Getter from an actual museum.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Roberta does a lot of damage with a relic flintlock she took off a wall in her boss' house.
    • The Lagoon Company uses an Elco PT boat. And even manage to destroy a Hind gunship with it.
  • In Macross 7, Millia is shown to have kept her old Valkyrie from the original Macross series over the years and breaks it out to assist when City 7 is cut off from the fleet (and reinforcements for awhile). However it's interestingly subverted. Millia can pilot it well enough to fight off the more advanced machines of the day, but when Gamlin who's only piloted more powerful modern Nightmare's tries to use it he's quickly shot down because he pushed it too hard.
  • To a lesser extent, the Shen-Hu from Code Geass. It's not that old (being the precursor to the Guren Mk-II, itself roughly a year old), but like the Gundam Wing example the machine was so insanely overpowered that nobody could use it. When Li Xingke takes it into battle, the only change made is the addition of a flight unit.
  • Late in Tiger and Bunny Kotetsu/Wild Tiger loses access to his Powered Armor when Maverick Unpersons him and frames him for murder. Luckily for him, his friend and former boss Ben Jackson's been keeping the old spandex costume safe—although not entirely in mint condition.

 Kotetsu: Hey, it's all wrinkled!

Ben: Uh, let's not worry about little things like that.

  • In Gunbuster, the humans decide to reactivate the obsolete Excelion for one final mission, go on a suicide run into the middle of the space monster fleet and detonate a black hole bomb.

Comic Books

  • An early Iron Man comic has a thief stealing the new (red/gold) armor, so Tony has to put on the old (grey) armor to face him. The new armor is superior in almost every way, but Tony has two advantages. He's more experienced in using his armor (and thus knows the weaknesses of it), and the old suit is said to be stronger.
    • Iron Man recycles this bit periodically.
    • Subverted in The Ultimates, when Tony brought one of his old suits out... so that he could use it to get to Iron Man Six, a heavily armed, space-capable weapons platform.
    • Subverted with the rehab armor from issues #191-199; although physically resembling his original gray suit, and not as powerful as the red-and-golds Rhodey wore at the time, the internal technology was more advanced. The rehab armor even eliminated an exploit of the red-and-gold (one which Tony himself took advantage of when he had to stop a rampaging Rhodey) - it replaced the old hip-mounted power packs with an internalized power source, a design element that carried over to later armors.
  • In a Commando story titled "Charlie's Tank" a group of plucky British soldiers trapped in occupied France liberate a World War I tank from a museum and use it to escape the Nazis.
  • The entire origin of Booster Gold. All the devices he uses to be a superhero were stolen from a 25th Century museum, and he uses a time machine stored in the museum to get to the 20th Century where they would then be beyond state of the art. (Though at least originally, they were actually from his future too: 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes devices that had gone back to the 20th century with Superman, and thus wound up in the museum.)
  • Narrowly averted in "Lady d'Olphine", an episode of the French-Belgian comic Benoit Brisefer: mobsters engaged in a turf war with a rival gang in the fictional country of Monte San Sone vainly try to talk a museum curator into selling them a WW 2-vintage howitzer.
  • In Tex Benson, a futuristic Canadian space opera newspaper strip, the heroes have to launch an attack on the base of an enemy who is amassing his forces at a hidden base prior to an interplanetary invasion. Unable to use their rocket ship to launch an attack from space because of the bad guy's high altitude defense system, the heroes land on the back side of the planet where they know a war museum contains a fully operating squadron of WW-II era P-38 Lightnings. After they load them with fuel and bombs they launch a low-level attack that catches the bad guys by surprise and destroys their base.
  • The Batman Elseworld story Dark Knight Dynasty showcased Brenna "Batwoman" Wayne's incredibly advanced 25th century power armour, before destroying its power cells so she had to swap it for a bat-costume that was just a costume.
  • In the first arc of James Robinson 's Starman series, "Sins of the Father", Jack Knight loses the cosmic rod that his father gave him, and has to rely on his father's much older gravity rod.
  • What some villagers do in a story by Wilhelm Busch to hunt and kill Fipps the Monkey at the end.



 Scotty:The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

  • In Battlefield Earth, U.S. military equipment stored in an underground base for 1,000 years is put into action to defeat the alien Psychlos.
  • Independence Day:
    • The flying saucer had been stored for decades under Area 51 when they suddenly needed it. Variation/subversion in that the vehicle is just as advanced as what the aliens are still using.
    • In the novelization, several pilots show up with WWII era aircraft to join the fight. Not expecting to survive, but because for every alien shooting at them, there's one that won't be shooting at the F/A-18's.
      • In the original cut of the movie, Russell appears in the final battle in his crop-dusting biplane with a bomb strapped to the side.
    • Similarly, the aliens are knocking out all digital communication, so what do the heroes do? Go to their good ol' trusty telegraph machines.
  • In Aliens, Hicks keeps an antiquated pump-action shotgun "for close encounters," and ends up having to rely on it on several occasions, particularly during the Marines' first run-in with the eponymous critters because the pulse rifles fire ammunition that would rupture the cooling system for the nuclear reactor in which the Aliens are hiding. The Novelization makes it clear the gun has been in Hicks' family for centuries, but it's not entirely clear whether pump-action shotguns are still made in the Xth century.
  • The Ealing Comedy film The Titfield Thunderbolt is based around this trope. In order to run a private railway line the villagers have to demonstrate their service to an inspector. On the day of the inspection their only working engine is out of commission, so they have to get the antique locomotive of the title literally out of the museum to haul the train. It should be noted that the Lion, the engine that played the part of the Titfield Thunderbolt for the film was over 100 years old at the time the film was produced. A literal museum piece.
  • In Demolition Man Simon Phoenix breaks into a museum because that's the only place to find a gun. After grabbing all the "outdated" 20th century weaponry he says "Wait a minute, this is the future. Where are all the phaser guns?", and goes after the future weapons, which are outdated by 2032 standards.
    • Though, to be fair, the only reason that these weapons are outdated are because society now Does Not Like Guns.
    • The car driven by Spartan is also a classic, and that's just by our standards. Forget 2032.
  • Transformers:
    • The Decepticons knock out all digital communications, so the feds at the Hoover Dam dig an old 1930s-era radio out of storage. They also use a couple of display Winchester 1897s.
    • Doubled up when they find some old computers when they need to get a message out. They work, but don't have keyboards. Luckily, they can be rigged up for Morse Code.
    • In the sequel, one of the characters is hiding out as a literal museum piece.
  • In the Get Smart film, Max ends up using the 1960s gadgets from the tourist display when he's on the run.
    • Of course, the car (fully fueled, for some reason) only drives for about a block before stalling.
  • In Cliff Hanger, Sylvester Stallone's character uses the antique climbing gear on display in the hut where he takes shelter.
  • In Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Angela Lansbury's witch heroine enchants suits of armor to fight the Nazis.
  • Hudson Hawk:
    • At the beginning of the movie, Leonardo da Vinci is shown testing a flying machine outside his castle. Five hundred years later, Eddie and Anna escape from the castle by using the flying machine to glide to safety.
    • Also, there's this newfangled device Eddie seems never to have heard of called a "watch."
  • In the first Iron Man movie, Stane steals Tony's Arc Reactor, power source for his suit and life support machine. As a result, Tony has to go into battle with the original, less powerful model. Bonus points for Pepper putting it in a glass case like an actual museum piece.
  • In War Games: The Dead Code the original JOSHUA system from the first War Games movie is uploaded into RIPLEY in order to save the day.
  • In Down Periscope Commander Dodge has to use a rustbucket WWII-era submarine to test the Navy's vulnerability to unconventional attacks.
    • The movie seems to ignore the fact that diesel submarines are much quieter than nuclear ones.
  • In the Russian crime movie Brother 2 the protagonists visit a gun runner who practices digging WWII-era weaponry from old battlefields and repairing it to working condition. In a later scene, they shoot some gangers with a WWI-era Maxim heavy machine gun.
  • In Threads, an antique traction engine is seen being used for farming after a nuclear war has left most of the world without mechanised agriculture.
  • Subverted in Date Night when the protagonists steal an antique revolver for self defence purposes. Turns out, the ammunition it's loaded with is so old that it causes a misfire.
  • The Matrix Reloaded. While Morpheus and Trinity are fleeing after the Keymaker, Morpheus grabs a katana from a display of antique weapons and uses it to fight the albino ghost twins.
  • Battleship sees USS Missouri taken back into action.
    • Justified as, not only is this the only option available, but World War Two-era warships with their thick armor can take a punch. Modern-day missile destroyers... not so much.


  • The Mote in God's Eye: When the three midshipmen are trapped on Mote Prime, they find a museum and use the weapons stored in it to fight attacking Motie Warriors. Justified because the museum was designed to keep weapons (and other items) in working order for future use when Mote civilization fell.
  • H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895). While exploring a far future museum, the Time Traveller discovers that most of the items are useless. However, he breaks a lever off a machine for use as a club and finds a box of matches and a lump of camphor that he uses to make fire and light.
  • In one of the ST:TOS Lost Years novels, A Flag Full Of Stars desk-bound post-series/pre-TMP Kirk uses the refitted Space Shuttle Enterprise to aid new 1701 CO Will Decker, commanding the in-the-midst-of-refit starship.
  • In the Star Trek the Next Generation novel "Crossover" Scotty steals a century-old Constitution-class starship to rescue Spock from the Romulans. It's nonetheless a better choice than any other Federation ship, because it still has the cloaking device that Kirk's crew stole from the Romulans in The Enterprise Incident.
    • Bonus points for having the Yorktown refit with the bridge of the original Enterprise for the museum. Also, Scotty made sure not to make the same mistake as in the third film. This time, he routed all the controls through a 24th-century shuttle computer, which worked just fine. Unfortunately, the Romulans have upgraded their sensors within the last century and spot him pretty quickly.
  • Museum-ship battleships are also pulled out of mothballs to fight aliens in Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
  • Every Dirk Pitt novel ever made has one of these in it. In one, it's a old Ford Trimotor. In another, an old steam paddle boat saving the president. In another, its an old French legion fort.The list just goes on.
  • The Seventh Carrier series of novels by Peter Albano features a WW 2 Japanese aircraft carrier and its planes that had been frozen in a glacier, fighting a war against an Arab alliance after a Chinese SDI system goes haywire and starts shooting down anything with a rocket or jet engine, rendering more modern weaponry useless. To escort the carrier, the Japs pull the pre-WW 1 battleship Mikasa out of museum-ship mothballs.
  • From the Posleen War Series series of novels by John Ringo:
    • Museum ships like old battleships are reactivated and upgraded to fight the invading alien Posleen. A WW 2 cruiser, the USS Des Moines, is brought back into service and upgraded with Galactic Federation tech to help secure the Panama Canal region in Yellow Eyes
    • Elderly retired soldiers are rejuvenated with tech from more friendly alien allies to fight as young soldiers again. The "rejuv" pills become a major part of the plot, especially when they run out before the enlisted men are called into action, leaving the U.S. military top-heavy with officers. In Watch on the Rhine, the Germans break out the Nazis, albeit under protest.
  • The Dresden Files:
  • World War Z:
    • The population of Britain (and various other European countries) apparently do quite well against the zombies, despite the lack of privately owned guns. Instead, they hole up in old castles and use the medieval weaponry in them. The quiet, middle-aged, academic type interviewed in the book is carrying a two-handed sword.
    • Other examples show up in the book. Grenades and flechette rounds do little to stop the zombies... but a modified trenching tool for up-close wetwork does wonders.
    • This is how the Russians survive the war—by breaking out their mountains of mothballed Cold War equipment (some of it dating back to World War II, even) to fight with.
    • Similarly in Zombie Survival Guide Brooks recommends bolt-action rifles and the Shaolin Spade to be some of the best weapons against zombies, the former because they are less prone to jamming than automatic weapons, and do not waste ammo in a panic, and the latter because it has the reach of any long bladed weapon, but has practical uses such as digging a hole to plant seeds or for a latrine.
  • In Hyperion one of the characters owns a gun that's been in her family for generations and gets described as ancient. Eventually it becomes apparent that while the gun is very old from the character's point of view it's actually a very advanced piece of technology.
  • In The Salvation War museums and private collections across America are looted of any exhibits that are able to be returned to service. Particularly aircraft and armored vehicles. This is actually Real Life since provisions to do just that are included in national mobilization plans.
  • Court Martial by Sven Hassel. Tiny and Porta find an ancient 104mm field piece hidden in a Russian barn and decide to shoot it off. At that moment the NKVD decide to attack in motorised sledges, and a couple get blown up before the barn burns down around them.
  • Star Wars, the two Expanded Universe Medstar novels, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. A planet rich in biological wonders is a little too excessive with plant life. Modern technology just tends to get eaten or rusted or worse, so the characters have to survive on much more primitive technology and ideas. Plus, the Force.
  • S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series posits the sudden worldwide breakdown of all advanced technology. Civilization swiftly collapses, and the survivors have to make do with what low-tech tools are available while readapting to a medieval technological level. Early in the first book, DIES THE FIRE, characters do take equipment literally from a museum, or, rather, a living history exhibit, which justifies why it's been kept in working order.
  • The premise behind the Choose Your Own Adventure book The Last Battledroid is that the galaxy is at peace, few standing armies are left, and the only thing that can stop the Big Bad is the single remaining Samurai-class battledroid currently residing in the museum. A nice touch is that you have to roll for its stats at the start, to see how badly the droid has deteriorated over the centuries.
  • The eponymous corps of Joel Rosenberg's Metsada Mercenary Corps series are forbidden by convention from using military technology more advanced than the enemies they've been hired to fight (thus, they use spears and shields against a Bronze Age culture, muskets against a 17th century level culture, etc.). The protagonist's uncle in Not For Glory, the third book in the series, is renowned for his skill at using the limited equipment he sneaks past the shrewd inspectors to the maximum advantage. Against the Bronze Age opponents mentioned, he jury-rigs hang-gliders out of the tents he is permitted to bring, giving his forces aerial superiority.
  • In Gone with the Wind, Ashley mentions that his soldiers have to fight the Northerners with muskets from the American Revolutionary War. One of the cases where it doesn't help the protagonists.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, LEP has to resort to using a few outdated electric guns after Opal "upgrades" every weapon and vehicle in the fleet.
  • Honor Harrington keeps a number of old-fashioned combustion-based pistols that she frequently practices with. Comes in handy when she has to meet with a pirate overlord who insists that she and her crew come unarmed. His scanners show that they don't have any modern pulser guns but don't check for the replica Colt M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol hidden in her briefcase.
  • Done literally in the Starfist series, where heavy armored vehicles went out of style three centuries ago due to the availability of the Straight Arrow, an extremely lightweight and portable shoulder-fired rocket that could defeat any thickness of armor you could reasonably put on anything meant to move. When someone starts building tanks again, they have to dig Straight Arrows out of the museums so they can make copies.
  • In Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Titan's Curse, Annabeth's father (a history professor) rescues the heroes with a Sopwith Camel. Firing celestial bronze bullets.
  • Happens in The Railway Series during the story "Old Faithful". Sir Handel is having to do everything because Peter Sam is having some minor repairs done. Then he gets derailed, leaving him unsuitable for any more pulling that day. They have no choice but to use Skarloey, who had been retired to a side shed when Sir Handel and Peter Sam arrived, to pull the afternoon train. Skarloey is old and decrepit, but he gets the job done regardless even after a spring in the front of his frame breaks. Afterwards he is sent off to be overhauled and comes back good as new, and has gained Sir Handel's respect.
  • Stewart Cowley's Terran Trade Authority universe features this trope in the Laguna Wars in Great Space Battles. The centrally controlled human battlefleet is vulnerable to the Lagunans' control-systems disorientation weapon and the manual backup systems are grossly suboptimal, so the mothball fleet of a previous era - actually designed for independent manual control - is hauled out of retirement. In the last-ditch defence of Earth against a powerful enemy fleet, the disorientation device is destroyed and the modern ships win the day, but when they push into enemy territory they find that the ultimate strategic victory has already been won by the museum fleet.
  • In Valentin Pikul's novel Wealth, set during the Russo Japanese War, the protagonist, governor of remote Kamchatka, faces a Japanese landing with only a handful of Cossacks under his command. What does he do? Breaks out some old 1860s Berdan rifles from an abandoned army depot and arms a militia with these guns.
  • Doc Savage: 'Long Tom' Roberts got his nickname when he used an ancient cannon - known as a Long Tom - that had been on display in the town square to successfully defend a town during World War One.
  • Robert Heinlein's The Star Beast. When Mr. Ito finds Lummox eating his cabbages, he grabs a relic of the Fourth World War known as a "tank-killer" that was handed down to him by his grandfather. He fires it it at Lummox, which doesn't harm him but does drive him away.

Live Action TV

  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined: The battlestar itself and everything it contains. In fact, it was in the process of being turned into an actual museum when the Cylons attacked. The rest of the fleet was knocked out quickly due to a Cylon backdoor in their networks, rendering all the new battlestars and the latest marques of Vipers all but useless, although several of the newer Mk. VII types on Galactica are retrofitted.
    • The officials actually insisted on installing a computer network on the Galactica in order for it to be used as an interactive museum. Adama refused, claiming that no network will be installed as long as he's in command.
  • In Heroes, Hiro believed that obtaining the sword of his childhood hero would allow him to control his powers. After going to the museum to steal it, they find out it's a replica, and have to steal the real one from the collector who has it.
  • In Supernatural, there is a special revolver, made by Samuel Colt himself in the 19th century, that can kill anything with one shot. It's obviously an antique.
  • Alluded to in Farscape: D'Argo's Qualta Blade was used by his grandfather to repel invaders after they ran out of modern weaponry.
  • In Allo Allo one of the plans to get rid of the British Airmen is to break out an old aircraft that would be powered by the engine of the General's lawnmower. It doesn't work.
  • Dads Army had an early episode in which the platoon go to the museum with the intention of taking weaponry, but do not succeed. The museum's caretaker who is trying to stop them, however, makes good use of the pieces inside to stop them entering.
  • Used frequently in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at least partially because Guns Are Worthless - and probably partially for the same nerfing reasons as Family-Friendly Firearms.
  • In one episode of Tremors: The Series Gun Nut Burt Gummer is out of weapons while fighting a monster infestation. The locals tell him of a resident gun nut with a huge arsenal. When they get there, they discover that the "huge arsenal" consists of 18th-century black-powder muzzle-loaders. Burt, however, being a drooling gun fanboy, is well-versed in 18th-century warfare and manages to organize the locals to Save The Day. (It helps that the actors in that episode were part of a historical re-enactment society.)
    • It also helps that the shriekers have no concept of tactics or even pack mentality (even wolves know to surround a prey). They just charge at the defenders without regard for their own lives.
  • In Stargate SG-1, if the Planet of the Week has forgotten what the Stargate is then it is often found at an archaeological site, in a museum, or in storage.
  • In the "Jesse James vs. Al Capone" episode of Deadliest Warrior, the fight takes place in an American History Museum. Jesse James' gang steal guns from the museum's display cases with which to fight their opponents.
  • In the short-lived series Covington Cross, the landowners of the south-east have assembled at Arundell Castle to pay their taxes. Bandits invade the gathering and hold the nobles for ransom. The Grey boys and their sister have to save the day by using the old weapons from the Duke of Arundell's collection. Note that this show already takes place in the Middle Ages, so the heroes fighting the bandits are using weapons even more ancient than that! Tenth to Twelfth century rather than Fourteenth - and yes, there was a difference!
  • In Covert Affairs, an encoded radio transmission turns out to be in such an outdated cypher that a clunky old museum piece is pulled out of the CIA's archives in order to decrypt it.
  • Hodgins and Wendell did this on Bones (with a healthy dose of MacGyvering) when they were trapped by a blizzard without power, and they had to solve the case quickly because the murderer might be contagious. The clearest example was when Hodgins actually managed to vaporize some of the metal shrapnel and analyze it. Justified because they work IN a museum.
  • The characters in NCIS had to do this during a power outage. Instead of digital cameras they used Gibbs's Polaroids, which they put up on a cork board, searched through boxes of fingerprints by hand and dug out an antique hand-cranked mimeograph to make copies.
  • Subverted in the Firefly episode "Trash." Inara threatens Saffron with the antique laser gun stolen from Saffron's ex-conquest, but it doesn't work, so she pulls out a real gun instead.
  • In an episode of Star Trek Enterprise, Vulcan soldiers in the Forge (an area where advanced technology doesn't work) carry lirpas, a traditional Vulcan weapon most commonly used in ritual combat. The human equivalent would probably be swords.
  • In the Doctor Who serial The Seeds of Death, the Ice Warriors have hijacked the T-MAT teleportation grid, which is on the Moon. Luckily for our heroes, the crackpot who runs a space museum has been secretly maintaining a rocket...
    • In "Vincent and the Doctor", the Doctor digs around the TARDIS for a species-scanner that was apparently given to him as a childhood present by his godmother.
    • In "A Good Man Goes To War" he presents Amy and Rory with his cot for their baby, with its mobile still in perfect working order after a thousand years.
  • In an episode of Primeval, Professor Cutter takes a katana from a display stand and uses it against some prehistoric worms.
  • During the Dominion War in Star Trek Deep Space Nine we routinely see parts of the Federation fleet are made up of Constellation, Miranda and Excelsior class vessels, which initially debuted over a hundred years ago and are still in active service. Its implied that in some cases that some of these vessels were even taken out of mothball to replace lost ships and still managed to hold their own.
    • The Miranda and Excelsior classes were actually in constant use for over 100 years, but the early models were usually mothballed after a while. But Starfleet kept building new ones with updated electronics and engines, so pulling the old ships out of retirement and bringing them up to modern standards was easy.

Newspaper Comics


 Guards: We need that catapult over there!

Curator: More budget cuts?


Tabletop Games

  • BattleTech plays with this. First, during the LosTech era, recovered ancient war machines may actually be superior to currently-produced models because they're still equipped with parts nobody knows how to make anymore. (This is what made finding old Star League caches such a big deal to everybody, to say nothing of ComStar having secretly stashed away a whole army of old designs and waiting for the right moment to deploy them.) On the other hand, well-designed 'Mechs from that time can still give more 'modern' ones a run for their money, especially if the modern design uses a lighter but more vulnerable advanced engine.
  • Warhammer 40000:
    • Most of the really cool stuff is at least ten thousand years old, from Baneblades to Titans to miles-long battle cathedrals (IN SPACE!).
    • The Imperium used to know how to make lightsaber-like swords (Eisenhorn owned one in book 1), but today they're stuck with ordinary metal swords charged with disruptor fields.
    • Not to mention the fact that the Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Necrons are still using hardware from before the ancestors of humanity ever crawled out of the primordial soup.

Video Games

  • The Journeyman Project 3: All the time jump suits were deactivated for some political reason, so the only time suit left was a super secret prototype the hero wasn't even supposed to know about.
    • This example also counts as an aversion to the trope as the old time machine was reactivated, but it was noted that this old machine was too cumbersome to start up again, and they were in a hurry.
  • In Fallout 3, you can find Abraham Lincoln's personal rifle (along with his hat) in the National History Museum. It's one of the best weapons in the game.
    • And despite the fact that there are rare, futuristic and powerful laser and plasma weapons, often the best weapons at your disposal are still a good old-fashioned revolver, hunting rifle or assault rifle, for which you will find plenty of ammo lying around.
  • The Left 4 Dead 2 survivors escape Savannah, Georgia in a borrowed 1970's racecar on display at the mall.
    • They have to gas it up first, however, so that plot hole is filled. Why there are over a dozen canisters of gasoline scattered around a mall undergoing renovation is anyone's guess, though.
  • In Ultima VII, you return to Britannia so long after the events of the prior game that all of the loot from your Bag of Spilling has ended up in a museum, and nobody will believe you're the Avatar.
  • In Red Dead Redemption 's single-player DLC, Undead Nightmare, Nigel West Dickens gives you a blunderbuss (about half-a-century past its prime) for doing a few shopping trips missions for him. Don't worry that there's no conventional ammo for it, you can just stuff zombie parts in it, and it's actually more effective at neutralizing (read: gibbing) zombies
    • This sort of thing qualifies as Truth in Television. Properly cared for, a firearm can and will last for a very long time. Fifty years is nothing. Oh, and the blunderbuss is not picky in the least about what you feed it, provided that it gets enough powder to wash it down with.
  • A major plot point in Metal Gear Solid 4, when the only ship under the control of the US forces after Ocelot hijacks their DRM is the USS Missouri, which had literally been in a museum until its license expired and it was retrofitted with VR elements for training purposes. Mei Ling is its captain, despite being an analyst with no battle experience who is unwilling even to shoot a robotic Dwarf Gekko.
    • The Taneshigama of 4 and Peace Walker, a 'relic from the age of the Samurai'. In 4, it summons tornados which drop items and ammo, and in Peace Walker it shoots tornados which kidnap soldiers.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, several museum-pieces pop up as 'Secret' Humongous Mecha, rewards for fulfilling more-or-less insane requirements. In almost every case, they're extremely powerful, often Hand Waved as being a Super Prototype, or having been retired originally due to being too powerful to handle. Perhaps the crown of it is the Gespenst 001 - the very-first prototype of the very-first Humongous Mecha designed in the world. For comparison, by the time of the first OG game, the basic Red Shirt mecha is the mass-produced Gespenst MK-II - the weakest machine you'll ever lay your hands on. And yet, the 001 is capable of keeping up with state-of-the-art Super Robots...
    • The 001 you use is a rebuilt version courtesy of the local Human Aliens. And considering that the entire Gespenst series are inferior copies of Gilliam Yeager's Super Robot / Eldritch Abomination XN Giest from Hero Senki, the closest copy should be a top-tier Super Robot.
  • In one of the most literal sense, Nuclear Strike has you break out an AH-1 Cobra from a museum in Pyongyang. While the AH-1 is still used worldwide and ingame, you were initially flying a lightly armed news chopper for clandestine operation and since North Korean army is going all out, you are instructed to get the choppper and fly it. One wonders why the chopper is fully fueled and armed, but hey.
  • In Armored Core for Answer, mission "Destroy Satellite Cannons" Hard Mode, the enemy is a "Prototype NEXT", the 00-ARETHA. Not only it is not quite a Super Prototype, the only other time you will face it is in the prequel game, Armored Core 4, and even then, it's hardly a threat, even when piloted by an Ace Pilot. In that mission, your operator even flatly derides the enemy for being so desperate as to willingly deploy, in her words, "a relic".
  • A theme in Red Alert 3 Paradox. The Soviets have been forced to put some of their older vehicles back into service, while the entire Confederate faction consists of rusting vehicles stolen from a massive reserve dump in the Nevada desert. The twist is, of course, these museum pieces are the old units from Red Alert 1.
  • In Battlestar Galactica Online, the Cylon War Raider is just a First Cylon War-era Raider refitted to modern specs.

Web Original

  • In The Salvation War, specifically, Armageddon, most aircraft used in the war against hell are museum pieces which were long since retired. Tanks and other armoured units are also brought out of retirement and storage, a WWII Panzer showing up at one point.

Western Animation

  • Futurama: After the Decapodians shut down the Earth's high-tech defences, the crew uses an ancient heat-seeking missile from a museum.
  • There was an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon where a character's all-powerful transformation ray couldn't affect gold. So Donatello arranged to borrow four ancient Roman shields that were made of gold. ("And try not to ding 'em, okay? They have to go back to the museum tomorrow.")
  • In Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot, the Big Guy was being put into a museum display, until they found that his replacement Rusty would need his help.
    • Of course, Rusty ends up being the sidekick.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door movie, a working item (which cures Laser-Guided Amnesia) was in the museum, but it was put there to hide it in plain sight, because everyone believed it was broken beyond repair.
  • In Batman the Brave And The Bold, Batman has to use the 1940s-model Batmobile when Owlman steals the current model. It turns out that Batman keeps every vehicle gadget and device he's ever had in proper working order, even after it's long obsolete, just in case he needs to use this trope due to his being Crazy Prepared.
  • A recurrent theme in Batman Beyond:
    • Terry's batsuit was technically a museum piece in the Batcave, though he said, "This suit may be old, but it's still cutting-edge." He uses other artifacts from Batman's crimefighting days in the series as well. (e.g. Nightwing's domino mask for ID obfuscation when the suit was unavailable, along with some old-style Batarangs.)
    • In "Blackout", Bruce took the freeze ray out of his little crime museum to stop Inque, and wore the old Gray Ghost hat and mask to keep his identity hidden. In her second appearance, Terry tried the same, but she broke it; later, Bruce took a huge Powered Armor suit out of retirement to go hand-to-hand with her in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • In one episode of Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, Captain Black was creating crop circles that render any digital systems (essentially, everything) inoperable. Spectrum took out his base of operations with an old Lancaster Bomber, which had been introduced earlier in the episode.
  • Early episodes of Re Boot have Bob doing this, since Mainframe doesn't have the advanced Techno Babble Bob is used to using in the Super Computer. However, the antique devices Bob has to make do with tend to fail, making this a subversion.
  • In Extreme Ghostbusters, the new crew tried the old proton packs against the Big Bad in the pilot episode and found them to be ineffective, forcing them to come up with a more powerful trap and proton guns. Even so, the old equipment still works, which makes it a suitable back-up.


  • Bionicle. After Makuta steals Mata Nui's robot body, Mata Nui has to use an older, smaller, imperfect prototype to fight him.
    • A version was done at an earlier part of the story, though not with technology: to end a Matoran Civil War, Makuta stuck the leaders in the Archives' wild animal exhibit. With the live specimens. The results were not pretty.

Real Life

  • During WWII the UK Home Guard, also known as Dad's Army, was initially issued whatever they could scrounge, including pitchforks, golf glubs and service rifles left over from the Boer War. (The regular army had first call on weapons left over from the First World War, though equipment started to trickle down as the supply situation improved.) Subverted in that many Home Guard personnel were farmhands, gamekeepers and other agricultural labourers, so shotguns and varmint rifles were plentiful.
  • In late 1940, the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy was equipped with the Fairey Swordfish, a large elegant biplane which would have been more suited to WW 1. Despite this, twenty-five Swordfish from two carriers succeeded in sinking a large part of the Italian Navy in its home port of Taranto. Range-finding equipment designed for fast modern bombers simply could not track aircraft that flew so slowly, and the Italian anti-aircraft fire was consequently way off target. All but one plane returned to their ships.
    • It was a Swordfish which crippled the Bismark, Germany's great battleship.
  • An "enemy" commander in a US military wargame, correctly assuming that his radio and internet communications would be tapped, sent out messages to his troops via bicycle couriers.
    • Although he was cheating in this case given that he assumed that his bicycles could move at light speed.
    • That was also very much how the German forces managed to surprise the Allies in the Battle of the Bulge, although in their case the couriers used motorcycles.
  • Al Unser won the 1987 Indy 500 in an older car that had been sitting on a motor show display stand until shortly before the race.
  • Passengers were rescued by a steam locomotive after modern rail services were brought to a halt by the snowy conditions in south-east England in late December 2009.
    • But it's a Subversion! The Steam Engine in question, Tornado, is a new build that was completed in 2008!
  • Some Taliban snipers in Afghanistan use British Lee-Enfield rifles (or locally manufactured copies), the design of which dates back to the 1890s. A basically similar weapon chambered for NATO-standard battle rifle ammunition was in use by the British Army in the same role until relatively recently.
  • Long after vacuum tubes had become obsolete, Soviet warplanes deliberately kept on using them because tubes are resistant to both electromagnetic pulse effects as well as some of the more conventional ECM.
  • Even with the introduction of solid-state (ie, transistor) amplifiers in the 1970s, many electric guitar players still use vacuum tube amps and 90% of all amps aimed at pro guitarists are made using tubes, with most solid state amps being either bass, digital or smaller practice amps. Guitar design has that beat though. The three most common guitars (and designs) are the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster plus the Gibson Les Paul. The Stratocaster was designed in 1954 and is the newest, with the Les Paul being introduced in 1952 and the Telecaster in 1952 (but having been released under as the Broadcaster a year earlier). While they have all recieved some design updates, all of them are virtually unchanged from their original designs.
  • During the Falklands War the British took a World War 2 field kitchen truck from the Imperial War Museum and sent it along with the Task Force that went to take the islands back from the Argentine invaders because there was no modern equivalent that could prepare hot meals for the troops in the field. When the Parachute Regiment waded ashore on East Falkland, it discovered this field kitchen, fully set up and ready to go, was waiting for them. While it hadn't been planned that way, and the landing was in any case unnopposed, the fighting elite discovered the Army Catering Corps had beaten them to it and were in fact the first British soldiers to return to the Falklands. Steak and kidney pie was duly served.
  • During the initial stages of the Israeli War of Independance in '48 the under-equipped Israeli forces resorted to using several Napoleon-era cannons as artillery.
    • Also, before they were able to develop their own defense industry, the Israelis relied on surplus tanks to build up their armored divisions. For example, they had been using heavily upgraded Sherman tanks in every armed conflict up to the Yom Kippur war, nearly thirty years after World War II ended. They were going up against state-of-the-art Soviet tanks like the T-55 and winning. The Israelis essentially proved that with enough upgrades, an obsolete tank could easily go toe to toe with a more modern one.
  • The Douglas DC-3, probably the most reliable and popular transport aircraft of the 1930s and 40s, is still in use today all around the world, resulting in the expression: "The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3".
  • An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter was shot down by a Serbian anti-aircraft battery using a Soviet missile from the early 1960s.
    • This case is actually a subversion, as this was 90% because of bad tactical decisions made on complacent assumptions and poor interpretations of engagement rules. The F-117 in question basically flew the same route again and again many times, allowing the specialized placement and modification of radar/detection equipment to be directed into a very specific area in a specific way, allowing for a missile lock. This kind of attack would normally be pretty much useless and impractical in any realistic scenario, but when you know exactly where to look for a stealth fighter, the whole point of stealth systems is rendered moot.
  • During the early stages of World War Two, the Norwegians sank the heavy cruiser Blücher with some weapons they'd bought decades before, which were considered obsolete. The Norwegian commander wasn't sure whether his fifty-year-old torpedoes would even work. They did. Crowning Moment of Awesome time.
  • In the Korean War, the North Koreans were using sea mines dating back to the Russo-Japanese War, supplied to them by the Soviets. Fifty years later they are still using them.
  • In 1807 the Ottomans loaded some giant cannons that had been collecting dust since the fall of Constantinople and used them to repel a British attack on the Dardanelles. It worked.
  • The four Iowa-class battleships have been mothballed, and recommissioned, twice. And Congress wouldn't let the navy get rid of them completely, until the early years of the 21st century. All four are now gone, but are now literal museum pieces, as they have been made into floating museums (the Iowa in Los Angeles, the New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, the Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia).
  • Quite a bit of obsolete-but-still-useful equipment tends to be stockpiled just in case it's ever needed again. Of note is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB outside of Tucson, Arizona, essentially one of the largest airplane boneyards in the world. They periodically dip into this stockpile of stored airframes to sell them to other countries, scrap them, or use them for parts for still-flying airframes (worth noting that some American planes, such as the C-130 and the B-52, have been flying since the 1950's). Some even get turned into remote-controlled drones for things like target practice.
  • The Korean People's Air Force has a small number of relatively modern fighter jets, including the MiG-29. They also operate many older airplanes. Including around thirty MiG-15s, as in the fighter jet they flew in the Korean War, although their remaining MiG-15s are all trainers. Did we mention that they also have biplanes?
  • During Operation Desert Storm, some US Marine Recon units broke out the retired M1911 to use as a side arm. The Beretta M9s they were issued had a tendency to jam up when exposed to sand.
    • It is still the sidearm used by Delta Force, after 100 years of service.
  • Suggested but averted by Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution. The Battle of Bunker Hill ended with them being driven off when they ran out of ammunition. Franklin suggested that if they had used bows and arrows, they could have held out longer and fired off volleys more rapidly.
    • It may be possible that this referred more to the fact that at the start of the Revolution, the colonists were desperately short of gunpowder. At one point, there were literally only a few dozen barrels left for the entire army, which would have been just enough for one pitched battle without artillery. The situation did improve later on, when France became heavily involved in the war and started sending over regular supplies of the stuff.
  • The first operational SR-71 was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in the 70's, only to be put back into service for 20 years and permanently retired in 1990.
  • When British firefighters went on strike in 2002, the Army was called upon to provide cover. They made extensive used of "Green Goddess" fire engines, built in the 50s and mothballed in the late 60s. The law has now been changed so in a future strike, the Army would have access to the fire brigade's equipment, and the Green Goddesses have been sold to developing countries.
  • During the Cold War, a squad of of SAS commandos were tasked with defending an Omani fort when they were suddenly attacked by hundreds of Communist guerrillas. In desperation, a couple of the SAS soldiers rushed over to a nearby shed that housed an antique WWII era anti-tank gun. They managed to get it working and it proved to be the deciding factor in the fight, buying them enough time for reinforcements to arrive.
  • During the Phillipine-American war, the Colt M1892 the standard pistol at the time proved ineffective against Moro tribesmen. The army briefly switch back to the Single Action Army, which proved far more effective.
  • The Italian Air Force used the F-104 until 2004 in spite not only of the extreme age of the design (the airplane was first flew in 2004, with the Italian F-104S version being manufactured between 1964 and 1979) but of its tendence to crash. It helped it was actually faster than the more modern F-16 that had been considered to replace it in the 1980s...
    • Also the old Carcano (dating back to 1891) and Garand rifles are still kept in the arsenals to be used by the reserve in case of war.
  • Some vehicle museums keep all their display vehicle in working order.