Curators Speak Out: Danny and Ashley on the World of Firearms Museums

When I posted my video last week about some of the problems with museum firearms collections, I touched on issues that Danny Michael and Ashley Hlebinsky deal with on a daily basis. They invited me onto their weekly podcast to discuss the subject, and we decided to record the discussion on video as well.

I’d like to apologize to the staff of the UK National Firearms Centre; they have all been extremely gracious and helpful to me despite the bureaucratic overhead they have to navigate. I would also like to highlight the efforts of Mathieu Willemsen at the Nationaal Militair Museum in the Netherlands for doing a great job of balancing the general interest and specialist accommodations of his museum, and having the time to publish books and articles on their collection at the same time. His is an excellent example for other museums to emulate!

If you enjoy listening to Danny and Ashley, make sure to check out the other episodes of History Unloaded. And hey, if you do have that $3 million check ready to endow a staff researcher position at Cody, Danny would love to hear from you at !


  1. Very thoughtful and interesting. Well done. Firearms examples would have added to the interest. Does anyone have actually have George Washington’s rifle?

  2. How do those two do a podcast together? Does Danny just sit mute while Ashley talks? She seems to like to. A lot.

  3. Thanks for this. It was much more than I thought it would be Everyone had valid points.I started watching with the intent to just watch a few minutes of it but ended up watching the whole video.

  4. The Butterfield armored vehicle collection had a sad time: after Butterfield died, it turned out that the foundation he’d set up didn’t have, and couldn’t get, the NFA paperwork for any of the automatic weapons. Whether the transfer from his estate couldn’t happen, or what, I don’t know. A team of ATF agents came in and audited the collection; when I toured the museum, just before it was all auctioned off, there was a massive pile of a hundred or more cut-up automatic weapon receivers: mostly .50 cals, but also other stuff, up to the guns on a ZSU-23 — all torch cut and lying on the floor.

    • You mean the Littlefield collection I assume? Yes, a shame what happened there. But he should have made their homework on how to file for all the machine guns and destructive devices. That there are NFA items owned by museums and foudnations shows, that Lttlefield fucked that up.

      • Oh, my mistake, yes, Littlefield. In his defense, he died after a short-ish battle with cancer, his attention may have been on other things. The various destructive devices (cannons) were transferred, but somehow the actual automatic weapons were … off the books?

  5. %Ran out of FW ?I think that people-es-pecially the foreigners-, expect to see harware every day. Not what happens, why it happened, etc.Two pieces of metal, they work well together or not.Clear deal. The site has became famous for that !Now if we start general interest discusions,we enter other fields, and one day excursions will be organazed as “the gun nerds”.(only jocking !).Museums make tickets by displaying memories.Happy to see one every day,dissasembled in pieces !.

  6. Museums always decide what they are about – and that means they always ignore a great deal. What aren’t they collecting/presenting/studying? What questions are they addressing? What makes their decisions better than those of others?

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