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Curating Firearms in Museums in the 21st Century

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Keynes Library

School of Arts

43 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

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Firearms collections and exhibitions share many affinities with other museums of technology. Today, there are around thirty national, state and publically owned collections of firearms in the U.S., as well as hundreds more that are privately owned or in collections on military bases. Even in the UK, with its less extensive historical and contemporary 'gun culture', many museum collections contain firearms of one sort or another, although many remain in storage. In both countries firearms collections raise many challenging questions. How do curators of museum firearms collections make choices for exhibition stories, as well as facilitate research and study? This session convenes a historian and a curator to discuss how guns and their histories are exhibited and narrated in American and British museums today.

Jonathan Ferguson is Keeper of Firearms & Artillery at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, UK. He is based at the National Firearms Centre, successor to the Ministry of Defence Pattern Room and one of the most comprehensive firearms collections in the world. His research interests include the use and effect of firearms both historical and modern. He also works with Armament Research Services as a technical specialist. Publications include the article ‘Trusty Bess’: the Definitive Origins and History of the term “Brown Bess” (2017), the book ‘Mauser “Broomhandle” Pistol’ (2017), and a co-authored small arms handbook for field researchers (due 2018).

Jennifer Tucker is Associate Professor of History and Science in Society at Wesleyan University (USA). Her research explores historical relationships of technology, science and culture, and law in nineteenth-century Britain and U.S.: interests which extend to the study of firearms in British and imperial history. She is the editor of the forthcoming book, The Right to Bear Arms: Historical Perspectives on the Second Amendment (Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Academic Press, forthcoming Spring 2019), and the moderator of a recent roundtable discussion inTechnology and Culture journal with seven curators of national and local firearms museums on the topic of history and heritage. She also writes about cowboy shoot outs and historical reenactments and the symbolism of guns in the current election ad cycle. A member of the new Association of Firearm Museum Professionals and Historians, she is the recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award.

The Royal Armouries is the UK’s national museum of Arms & Armour, spanning sites at Leeds, the Tower of London, and Fort Nelson. Its stated purpose is: ‘To excite and educate the public about arms and armour and their impact on the people, history and cultures of Britain and the world from ancient times to the present day’. The Armouries holds in trust for the public one of the finest collections of its type in the world, from exquisite pieces of the gunmaker's art, to the most functional military weapons, and from the medieval period to the present day. The already impressive firearms collection was more than doubled in size in 2005 by the acquisition of the British Ministry of Defence’s former ‘Pattern Room’ collection.


Image: Tower of London, lantern slide, c.1870

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Keynes Library

School of Arts

43 Gordon Square

London

WC1H 0PD

United Kingdom

View Map

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Contact the organiser to request a refund.

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