During the period of Latvia’s independence before 1940, the museum worked under the auspices of the War Ministry. In 1919, the museum found its home in the Powder Tower, a part of Riga’s ancient fortifications. The mission of the museum was to reflect in its expositions the Latvian people’s struggle for freedom and independence, to raise national self-confidence, and inspire love for the native country.
The museum expositions featured themes of medieval and recent military history, Latvians taking part in the 1905 Russian Revolution, the events of the World War I, the proclaiming of an independent Latvia, the War of Independence, establishing statehood. The museum has a rich collection of weaponry, photographs, documents, orders and awards, uniforms and other items.
In 1937-1940, the project of the respectable red brick extension to the tower was successfully carried out, but the museum did not manage to move into the new building. On June 17, 1940 Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and the Latvian War Museum was closed alongside with other Latvian state institutions. A part of the museum collections were lost, some were transferred to other museums and archives.
From 1957 onwards, the building housed the Museum of Revolution that treated the 20th century history of Latvia from the ideological position of the Soviet power. However, during its existence, the museum assembled valuable collections characterizing the Soviet system. The renewal of the Latvian War Museum was started along with the processes of regaining Latvia’s independence in 1990. The aim of the museum is to explain the complicated military and political history of Latvia to the general public, placing special emphasis on the 20th century developments, when the Latvian nation had to fight for its independence twice.