Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Museums and Firearms - why I do what I do

Well, today finds me in Montana, relaxing at my in-laws place. Tomorrow will find me at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman (where my museum career effectively began). I will be presenting my day-long seminar on Museums and Firearms at the Museums Association of Montana (MAM) Conference.

The first time I did this presentation was for the 2004 Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Conference in Casper, Wyoming. I had been at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center as the Firearms Curator for about a year-and-a-half. I was leading a charmed life. I had my (at the time) dream job, I was being paid to talk to people about guns, history, and museums, and I was starting to build some great friendships in MPMA.

Anyway, here I am, almost eight years later. I moved on to a great (and in many ways better) job at a different museum. I am still involved with MPMA (I've been a board member for 6 of the last 8 years). I still love talking to people about guns!

Part of what I love about this is that I get to help cross the great divide - the divide between the gun guys and the Museum world. It's not that there are no gun guys in the museum field or museum folks who like guns. However, this is a small slice of a huge Venn diagram. There are lots of gun guys out there who like - but misunderstand - museum operations. There are many museum professionals who are responsible for firearms in their collections but don't fully understand them as objects or have concerns about guns and their accoutrements.

Unfortunately, the channels of communication between the two groups are limited. There are about a half dozen titled Firearms Curators in the country. I know most of them by first name. Some of these guys, by choice or job description, don't have the opportunity to talk to the general museum field. The museum field, tending to skew politically liberal, are often not gun owners. I, on the other hand, fall into both areas to a certain extent. As I have titled the blog, I am a Liberal Gun Guy.

Having set myself apart and acknowledging this difficult and sometimes tenuous position, I am more than happy to talk to both groups about how we can all get along. Tomorrow will be the sixth time I have presented this specific seminar. It has been seen by about 100 museum professionals and others to this point. I had several hunters skip the opening day of deer season to catch the talk in Bismark, North Dakota (thanks to the State Historical Society of North Dakota). I have had input from the (at the time) Firearms Conservator from Springfield Armory National Historic Site. I even have done the unthinkable - I enlist the aid of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

With the aid of these folks (and the host organizations I have dealt with), I get to talk to 20 more people about two of my loves - museums and firearms. Safety and identification, legal issues, conservation and care, and exhibition and curation will all be covered.

It'll be a great day!

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