It Belongs in a Museum! Or, “Ian Offends Curators”

Have museums fundamentally changed since the advent of the internet? Does this impact decisions about whether artifacts like firearms are best held in museums versus private collections for the sake of study and understanding? How do creeping deactivation standards irreparably harm the community, and would any museum curator even consider deliberately destroying any other sort of artifact in their care? This and more, in today’s rambling discussion of guns and museums…


  1. Ian, I agree with a lot of that you said.

    Coincidentally, I spent part of yesterday at the Louisiana National Guard Museum at the Jackson Barracks in New Orleans. It’s a well-done museum with good interpretive material and a fine collection, much of which found itself submerged during Katrina. Most of the guns still bear the scars of that ignominy.

    But there’s another side to this that you didn’t touch on: that museums are one of the ways that we express our collective memories—which may or may not have any bearing on actual history, but which is strongly tied to our self-identity. In that sense, many museums are very much about telling us the story that we want to have told to us. Most museums leave out a lot of larger context, which can muddy history in a very real-life kind of way.

    That said, I’ve long thought that the private collecting community is one of the greatest untapped pools of historical knowledge. Academic historians, in particular, seem to turn their collective noses up at the private collecting community. And since many museums are staffed by people coming out of academia …

  2. Museums are always fighting for funding, and space for displays is at a premium. This leads to limits on what can be put on display at any time, within the context of the museum designated focus. Unfortunately the people who visit museums tend to be limited in what they are interested in and therefore ignore some aspects of the collection displayed.

  3. Dear Ian, Happy New Year. Over here in the UK our local museums have been sanitised from display, many of which have been destroyed. Bill Harding, a former policeman who worked at the Birmingham Proof House, started a museum to try and rescue many of the rarer items which were going to be lost to future generations due to the current public hatred of anything to do with guns. I thank you for your work in bringing rare and interesting firearms to the general populace, in my opinion it is true public service broadcasting! Kind regards, Simon

  4. You see trends in types of displays. There is an unfortunate shift towards interactive and video rather than true artifacts. Reading and learning from observation and hypothesis is no longer encouraged. Pre digested and scripted video game or ‘interactive’ displays are the thing actual artifacts are loosing way to. Kids are encouraged to play games than look at bones and pot shards or primitive tools.

  5. I am a museum volunteer at an Air Force museum. All aircraft in the museum are static display–none are capable of flight and some probably cannot be made to fly again. The munitions on display are dummies or inert or deactivated–for safety and security reasons. One of the museum missions is preserving aerospace knowledge and maintenance teams often visit to examine parts of the aircraft on display because they’ve a maintenance issue but the institutional knowledge on the aircraft in question has lapsed. Many of the volunteer staff were Air Force pilots and maintenance personnel that lived with the aircraft on display.

    It’s not just guns and planes that are rendered “safe” and “secure” for display. HG Wells wrote of inert museum weapons in his classic “the Time Machine.” Motor vehicles are often gutted and merely shells on display. How many museum ships could actually sail out of harbor? There are a few, but mostly museum pieces are rendered as inert as possible to prevent misuse. In the process, knowledge is destroyed.

    Looks as if the big museums are mainstreaming–and the small private museums will continue to have a role for deep research.

    • “(…)museum missions is preserving aerospace knowledge and maintenance teams often visit to examine parts of the aircraft on display because they’ve a maintenance issue but the institutional knowledge on the aircraft in question has lapsed.”
      Do you have any knowledge for B-52? I heard they are planned to stay in service, despite being so old that there is story that one B-52 pilot is flying same aeroplane as grandfather. What are procedures for saving knowledge for such long lasting in service machine?

      • If the type stays in continuous service, manuals and training seem to work. A lot of the training is on-the-job, learning from the experienced people, who learned from other experienced people. The surviving B-52s are all the same model, so nor problems.
        Where the Air Force runs into problems is when they pull old aircraft out of storage for a new mission, even if the basic type is still in service. An EC-135C pulled out for conversion to weather reconnaissance has major differences from the current C-135 family. Then all you have are 40-year old manuals to learn from.

  6. This is of course 100% my personal opinion. As background, I am a 48 year old collector in the USA, an FFL and gunsmith, and a combat veteran. My opinion is based on the current climate in the USA, as it is too late for the UK and other countries with similar laws.

    I personally think that any firearm is far better off in a personal collection than in a museum. There are several reasons why, most of which Ian touched upon. First off, deactivation/destruction. I am 100% against any form of deactivation or destruction. If a firearm is in a museum, it will be destroyed in line with any and all new rules and laws to that effect. In my mind, deactivation of any kind is just as bad as those crushed Spanish pistols. A deactivated firearm is no better than a boat anchor, and I do not collect boat anchors. If it is in a private collection,it has a very good chance at survival, as most collectors are not going to voluntarily destroy their historic collections, and would rather be undercover felons than comply with unconstitutional and nonsensical laws. This is especially true for people my age and younger, who have already suffered the effects of being priced out of certain collectibles due to laws such as the GCA and NFA and restrictive import laws.

    While I would venture most museums do a fair to good job of caring for the firearms in their collections, private collectors tend to do better, as the firearms are their personal property. For example the gentleman above told of firearms destroyed/damaged in a museum during Hurricane Katrina. I would venture that most collectors would make a better effort to get their collection out of harms way in such a situation if at all possible.

    Hopefully, the day will never arrive that private collectors must hide and not share their knowledge and collections. But should that day come, firearms in private collections provide for an arsenal of freedom.

  7. I don’t disagree with the facts / effects you’re presenting, but I disagree as to the causes.

    The transition happened long before the internet – when museums ceased to be places that scholars, churches, rulers, or wealthy burghers built for their own study, pleasure, and/or bragging rights, and became places that taxpayer-voters built to entertain themselves and attract tourists.

    • Mike, I was thinking along these same lines, where museums became entertainment venues rather than education venues. The early museums Ian references were often connected to universities. Today, they are seen as competitors in the leisure industry. And there is a race to the bottom in terms of displays: making museums as attractive to average, common visitors versus the scholars and specialists like Ian.

      • Tomek,
        I agree, and misspoke a bit earlier. It’s really a two-stage process that began with what I wrote earlier, with the “race” you describe accelerating with the transition from republic to democracy.

        I also think this is where the internet really adds value. Before, even if museums displayed more firearms, only a tiny handful would ever have been ever to see them in Ian-level detail. I’m not even talking “haves and have-nots”: one could be a high-level achiever in just about any field except academic research, and still not get to operate and disassemble centuries-old weapons like we do (virtually) here. Someone who didn’t begin as a gun or history buff might not even set foot in such a museum, and tactical guys might never see inside a wheellock (or vice versa).

        It’s not just the information, but also its accessibility and scalability: Today’s viewer can “taste” bite-size samples of incredible resources like this without a ticket, travel, or a major time commitment, and get hooked for life – in his own time and at his own pace. Today hundreds of thousands of FW (or C&Rsenal) viewers have learned, and hundreds of millions could learn, a breadth and depth of information available to maybe dozens a few decades ago.

  8. Springfield Armory National Historic Site provides a sterling example of the shift in focus from a museum to a tourist point of interest. I visited with my father in 1973 and spent hours wandering around the crowded displays, the museum floor looking like an active toolroom with work benches and tooling in place. Now, I know Ian has seen it, and if you haven’t been there it’s still well worth the stop, but it’s been scrubbed clean of context. Aside from a minor shrine to John Garand and a few old staples like the Organ of Muskets, it’s basically just a few displays that appeal to general interest.

    • I could not agree more. I was a young boy visiting Springfield in the 70s as well. It was an amazing place. It is worth a visit today but there is so much more in the back room that i would like to see. I would not mind if they followed the model of the Leeds museum where you could see the back room by appointment. I would love to see the T48 collection at Springfield.

  9. Ian, one aspect of this “dumbing down” is partially to bring in a more “general” audience to these facilities. It has been about the numbers. More people into and thru a museum, helps museums qualify for grants and all sorts of monies that have to be approved, by and large, by government entities. So yes, Internet has helped museums reach out, but just as important, it attempts to bring more people into these facilities, therefore, you can’t write the display curriculum too high for the common visitor. Museums have become a “general audience” competitor for the entertainment industry. I agree with the continued academic requirement for access. My own attitude, being an enthusiast, is that I hate to see ANY weapon destroyed. But that goes well into politics, which I don’t care to do at this moment.

  10. Mr. McCollum, I’m a big fan of your work, and you do a great service for the firearms enthusiast community, however this video struck me the wrong way. I wasn’t aware of the issue you brought up about how museums could be doing better. If I could offer some suggestions: it would have been good if you could have either recommended improvements museums could make, provided a call to arms (so to speak) to engage the community in assisting museums, or demonstrated some personal responsibility for the problem (maybe by way of a donation, volunteering, or giving shout outs here to your complete list of museums doing a good job). Without these elements, this video sounds like merely a complaint, and has the character of sour grapes or vaguebooking. Thank you for your tireless dedication to the documentation of cool firearms and your sharing of this excellent work freely – I view your content almost daily, and can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future. All the best.

  11. I agree with much of what is being said, but here’s a counterpoint that I think is worth exploring.

    Some years ago my wife and I stumbled across the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans. Like many “old school” museums (I think this one was built in the late 19th century), it’s a large building containing row after row of display cases containing the such-and-such artifacts from many individuals that fought in the Civil War. It’s a superb collection that would make any Civil War collector froth at the lips.

    I was enthralled, because I’m a historian and have all the context I need to make an experience like that meaningful. But my wife—brilliant woman that she is—doesn’t have a background in Civil War history and isn’t inherently interested in Civil War artifacts. She was bored stiff.

    She asked me why the museum was so interesting. I took some time to explain the Daughters of the Confederacy and the creation of the “lost cause,” and the development of museums like this to martyrize the South’s cause. I noted that the building was very much like a church, with Jefferson Davis’ artifacts near the altar. Not coincidentally, it was located a stone’s throw from the monument to Robert E. Lee. Etcetera.

    With that bit of context, the museum became an entirely different experience for her. Now she wasn’t looking at the socks that so-and-so wore during a certain battle, but the efforts of a determined group of people to rewrite history. She was looking at how people could take a military loss and turn it into a cultural phenomenon, whose legacy still lives with us today.

    “Old school” museums don’t present this context, because they assume that the people coming to visit are domain experts. But most people aren’t domain experts, and I think there’s something good in museums trying to present a more generalized view of history that more people can connect with.

    I mentioned in an earlier post that my wife and I visited the museum at the Jackson Barracks in New Orleans yesterday. I enjoyed the museum because I could get up close and personal with a lot of the artifacts on display. But my wife—who, as I mentioned, has no intrinsic interest in firearms or military history—came away telling me that she felt inspired to join the National Guard, after seeing examples of the important work that they do. We’re both too old to actually enlist, so there’s no risk of this actually happening … but such is the power of a well designed museum exhibit.

  12. There is a very good museum in Frankinmuth MI, the Michigan Military and Space Museum. My wife’s grandfather served in WW1, and the family donated his uniform to the museum. BUT, given that he was just a run of the mill soldier, odds are, that uniform will never get seen by the public. Much better it was donated than thrown out or moth eaten but still not ideal. If it had been sold to IMA or on eBay, it would have gone to someone who appreciated it, but that would still have kept it from public view. I guess the test will be in another 97 years when we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the US entering WW1. A museum collection, if still intact, will be a better source of info than an undocumented scattering of artifacts in private hands.

  13. A thought: Ian, what about crowd-sourcing research for firearms in museum collections? What if a curator made their collection list of firearms (we’re talking specifically firearm-related museums here) available to a research community, either at large or a select closed group, in exchange for sharing that research? Your point is well taken; the traditional museum model, as it has evolved so far, needs to change. Some of the work curators do just can’t be done internally anymore. Maybe time to outsource some of those functions?

  14. Ian makes excellent observations here. The stuff about the activation of firearms is horrendous! No one would think of defacing another type of historical artifact, but firearms are considered so taboo by some people that all historic objectivity goes out the window.

    The Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody Wyoming is one of my favorite places in the world. I first went in the early 1990s. I love the Native American museum and of course the firearms museum. I went back to visit about 15 years later and I noticed that there was a lot less on display in the Native American museum. They decrease the number of artifacts on display I think in order to increase interactivity. But it was kind of disappointing. I don’t believe they had the same issue in the firearms museum,It is still wonderful and slightly overwhelming!

  15. I would add that Museums have become entertainment centers, and I believe have decreased their public educational function, because “education” isn’t perceived as entertaining. (Indeed, hasn’t “educated” become a term of contempt for many?) Art museums spend no space (Cleveland is an exception) explaining why certain pieces evolved into what they are; so much “inexplicable” modern art would become, at least, somewhat understandable, with a couple of paragraphs of history and a diagram or two hung alongside.

    Museums aside, now I want to see a video on those La Corunna prototypes, with diagrams of the innards. Does the Internet have the patents or exploded views on display?

  16. This has been a wonderful discussion. I believe that museums have a generally narrow set of interests -usually informed by academic questions. This means that there are large amounts of stuff, and a great many interesting topics, that they simply ignore. Collectors play a critical role in preserving and celebrating things that MUSEUMS ignore.

  17. A couple of points about the Internet taking the place of museums.

    First, museums are curated. Someone actually has the job of making sure the information is accurate. Now, I’m sure people will come up with examples where a museum failed, but contrast that with the Internet, where there is not even an attempt to be accurate, except the trustworthiness of the poster (like Ian!).

    Second, the Internet is not, usually (again, you’re an exception, Ian) the place to go for new or in-depth knowledge. I am interested in WWII, and 99% of the Internet sites are like “Did you know about the Battle of the Bulge? Where the Germans almost won World War II!” There’s at least as much shallow, useless information on line as in museums.

  18. I agree with Ian. As I child over 60 years ago I would visit our county historical society a lot. They had a wonderful collection of donated guns which is how I ended up “playing” with a 1918 Tankgewehr. Years later I discovered it had been “modernized”. No guns. The Cornell ROTC had a Chauchat on display, I doubt it is still around. Here in Mo there is another example of “modernism” 10 years ago the Soldiers Memorial in STL was an example of a classic museum, full of artifacts donated by veterans from WWI to Dessert Storm. They had a WWI Liberty Bell helmet on display and a melted glass bottle from Hiroshima. It was redone a couple of years ago. Now it is as Ian said a 3 dimensional Wikipedia page. Fortunately the WWI Memorial in Kansas City has not been corrupted.

  19. I would like to take this video to say thank you to ‘Fireplace Guy’ for sharing your collection with Ian and by extension the world. Thank you sir.

  20. Friends,
    20 years ago I spent a whole day in The Imperial War Museum, London.
    A year ago I spent 30 minutes and as I left, saddened at the level of curation, a staff member said to me, “I’m awfully sorry, Sir. It’s a shell of its old self.”

  21. One of the simple (but mandatory points) steps for turning people into slaves is the destruction of their history.
    So it was with the population of South America.
    So it was with the population Russia after 1917.
    So it was with the population of Germany after 1936…
    There is nothing new under the sun.

    • I’ve been there and it was great! Major global arms from various eras PLUS many (formerly unknown to me) examples of lesser known Argentinian firearms.

  22. Sometimes lack of interest in a museum can be so good.Cardiff Castle in Wales had a 08/15 on display on the first floor while the guard was on the ground floor. One saturday afternoon I was even able to get the top cover up and really explore the gun. Nowadays there would have cameras at the very least

  23. Speaking of volunteer work, is anyone willing to provide a transcript of Ian’s remarks in the video?

    I know Google can add automatically generated subtitles, so someone may be able to capture them with youtube-dl and export into a commant.

    • You can view a youtube video’s subtitles as a transcript and copy/paste them right on youtube, no need for extra downloading tools.
      On the line between the video title and description, where the like, dislike, etc. buttons live, the rightmost button “…” brings up a menu of further options. “Open Transcript” is the one we want.

      Unfortunately, Google has decided that Ian is speaking Russian in this video, and generated subtitles accordingly:
      the soft steel
      les enfants
      и nsstring объект ос windows 7
      n n n n n n n n n n n n n n n
      ну и у с а а ю л л н дисплей
      даю тебе один

        • You can try. I’ve had luck with “auto-translate” sometimes, but for this video it produces nonsensical gibberish.

          If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because it machine-translated to Russian in the first place and is then trying to create a translation of a translation.

          • Very true, Mike. Trying to translate into English does not work.

            I’m wondering why the CC were not in English in the first place. Occasionally, the CC is in Korean or something else. 🙁

          • That baffles me too (I often watch with the sound turned down in the early mornings). Not sure if it’s on the FW or YT side.

  24. Ian, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,

    I found it difficult to articulate what I have seen in all the years that I’ve had access to certain collections. This article from Dec. 12 1978 that did a good job of summarizing the issues we still face today:

    As to the question of “Would any museum curator even consider deliberately destroying any other sort of artifact in their care?”. Destroy, distort, modify or sell, it’s all been done and continues to this day.

    Thank you for making this video, the past is too easily forgotten.

  25. Well before the interwebz, museums were increasingly relying on travelling mega-shows to whip up attendance and income. The Tutankhamun show for example. Being herded past a large exhibit, with a huge bottleneck around one or to Headline Pieces, as not a real museum experience.

    Firearms, as complex technical artifacts, are especially unsuitable for this kind of Barnumesque display.

  26. What happened with the Lithgow Small Arms Museum in Australia? Last I heard they were being compelled to destroy their collection because of 2017 changes to Australian gun-control laws.

    • The museum received a “Special Circumstances Exemption” from the NSW Police Commissioner. While this resolves the immediate problem, the Commissioner can withdraw the exemption at his discretion.

  27. No one mentioned that the reason museums have become so desperate to sell tickets is that they’ve lost state subsidies in the age of market supremacy. The Smithsonian had nothing but free exhibits until the end of the ’80s.
    If they subsidize the arts you appreciate, they will also subsidize ones you don’t. Taxpayers just want cuts. It’s been easier to just zero out budgets and make culture compete in the marketplace of ideas.
    It was Marx who warned about the commoditization of all relationships.

    • Between commoditization/commercialization/commodification of guns/art/culture or politicization of the same, i will take the first one every single time. Especially after all the riots, looting, arson and destruction of monuments/statues/churches in the western world this past year, and in the case of Europe, these past few years.

  28. So Ian, I’m not sure if you are arguing that in this era of more generalized appeal of museums that people who are specialists now have less access to specialized firearm info that they did before?

    Or are you actually (maybe unintentionally) pointing out that the general public now has more access to understandable info and also that specialists also now have more access than they did, in say 1990?

  29. I visited a bank in Pine Dale Wyoming(1999). Visited moutain man museum & curator ( I explained repairs to Jim Bridger’s rifle for her) told me to visit local bank. Just walk in , tellers to rt. & double doors to left. Sigh says bank president. Just walk in , he will be glad to see you. ? So I did. He had in glass case 360° of all models of Winchester. By the second 1 he could stand no more & went through 3 1/2 hours of every Winchester lever action he had their.
    Do you know of this collection?

  30. In 2001, i was working in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany. My working space was a bureau in the library. In my lunchtime i almost every day strolled through the collections to which i had, being an employee, of course always free access. On these walks, i noticed the remarks of the visitors being bored by the never changing exhibitions and the lack of informations. In the meetings of the staff, consisting of academics with high degrees such as doctors and our boss, a professor, there was always the problem of how to fulfill the demands of the visitors with the fundings, which only for a small portion consisted of the entrance fees, but for the majority of the financial backing by the government of Bavaria. I will never forget the awful smell of the old things there, and the inability of the staff to find a way to deliver an interesting exhibition although they had an inventory of 1.3 million artifacts (no kidding!) of all kinds in their vault. By so doing, they had mostly only elderly people and tourists from abroad as visitors.
    They try to show the richness of our culture to the people, but what they achieved was boredom amongst the visitors.
    In todays culture of events museums have become a show of ancient abilities, knowledge and wisdom to a very small part of our society. It appears that the word museum has become a synonym for “mostly uninteresting old stuff” to most of the people today. I myself have become reluctant if asked to join someone on a visit to one.

  31. I find the internet a poor substitute for museums.
    Not for detailed specifics about data and whatnot but looking at a photo on a screen of an M10 tank destroyer or a Bf 109 is not remotely similar to actually viewing them from an arms length away. The same for the almost infinite number of items on display. I find museums for the most part to be safe havens for most things. At least one knows what’s there. Private collections? Not so much. Private property is also left up to the whim of the private owner. No accountability. The internet. What does local Norman Calvados taste like? Just look it up on the web.

  32. I forgot to say that the majority of young people are only interested in what is an what will be, and much lesser in what was. Which of course makes them prone to forget or ignore our past and, by so doing, not learning by it. I consider this to be the major reason why history repeats itself again and again.

    • And the very same criticism has been brought forward some 2000 years ago. In ancient Greece. People never change. Especially old people when they talk about the young.

  33. The Air Force museum keeps track of aircraft (all over the world) in a detailed way, so when a particular part, no longer made, is needed, they can review the ‘stinger birds’ or aircraft in a boneyard to identify where such a part, still flight worthy, can be found.

  34. Once you hand your history over to the state it will completely fall under the influence of the whims of politics. Which is always the lowest of the lowest common denominator.

    Or in other words, a private collection is not necessarily the worst place.

  35. I have fond memories of the old US Army Ordnance museum in Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the early ’60’s. Rack after rack of unlabled firearms from every corner of the globe in a huge utilitarian building, tanks everywhere, a two mile long row of tanks stretching along the median from the mail gate…all gone now. Our local museum in Green Bay WI has an inventory of severeal hundred firearms locked away in dehumidified storage that no one knows about. I was given access because I helped with a WWI display a few years ago, but otherwise they just sit there. I think the army ordnance branch was folded into the quartermaster corp and moved to Ft Belvoir VA with some of the collection, but APG is a closed military base now.

    • I have the same feelings regarding the museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which I could visit without problem in the 1980s.

    • The Ordnance Museum at APG moved to FT Lee, though I’ll be damned if I could find it when I was there in 2019. I visit APG with some regularity and had the misfortune of watching the displays slowly dwindle as they were moved. Regarding FT Belvoir, the National Museum of the Army is being built there.

  36. Just a brief comment. I agree with much of what you say and hope that the curatorial community will consider these points. I served on a supporting foundation for a museum which included firearms and other items of interest (to me) for a decade. There is an emerging school of curators who appear to regard museums as day care centers for children. Our museum director became obsessed with attendance and therefore began programming that would appeal to pre-school and elementary school kids in order to get the gate count up.

    Apparently, this is another pressure on the museums.

  37. Happy New Year, Ian. As always your observations are thought-provoking and cogent. I believe the hardeconomic imperatives of running a museum are driving many to the “family day out” experience and away from hubs of research. You’ve got to get the footfall. However despite great sources such as FW and C&Rsenal a good museum can deliver something special that the the internet can’t. I recently visited the National War Museum in Athens, Greece almost by accident as I’m an enthusiast for the ancient world. Although the weapons can only be seen behind glass it was a great experience despite my kids’ observations along the lines “if you really think they’ve mislabeled that gun you should tell them so”. Also the visceral and emotional impact of seeing soil blood soaked from the shooting of Greek partisans by the Nazis is something that touched me more than anything I have seen. If you’re ever in Athens it’s a museum well worth a visit and the few euros entry fee.

  38. Ian, I have viewed many of your firearms historical examinations and applaud you professional presentation style.

    I would like to purchase a DVD collection of these presentations.

    Do you offer this? If not will you consider producing a DVD Collection? Thank you.

  39. I am a volunteer at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston, Iowa. When I began volunteering there, they had several firearms displayed with incorrect identifications or incomplete information. Some of them were absolute gems. An M3E1 submachinegun, one of six transitional prototypes manufactured, a Colt M16 from the Squad Automatic tests of 1965, a French PM9 submachinegun and several weapons that bore cartouches or markings that told their own stories of their travels that would never fit on a placard in the case. Most of the weapons from Iraq and Afghanistan were accompanied with tags that identified them as “Iraqi” or “Soviet” origin when in fact they came from China, Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Serbia. The Curator, as you observed, has responsibility for the entire collection of the museum and does not always have time to research each firearm in the collection when he has literally thousands of other non firearm items to ride herd on. Being retired, and a gun geek, I did have time and it has been a treasure hunt. After three years I still find things that I hadn’t noticed before. I had suggested that detailed photos of each gun be taken and organized into an online collection and it seems that this may happen and allow digital access to the firearms that we don’t the space to display. It will take a while, but someday. Sometime when you are in Iowa look us up.

  40. Three parts.

    1. Interesting comparison of museums devolving into 3-D Wikipedias. Rings true, and seems so obvious that I wonder why no one else has noticed it.

    2. I absolutely believe private collectors are more useful than museums. Financial collectors want their inventory to be as valuable as possible and have every incentive in the world to allow research access to their inventory, to publicize it, to spread knowledge of it. The collectors who simply enjoy having as complete a collection as possible probably know that the best way to find more and better examples is to publicize what they have. Of course, there will probably me moralistic crusaders who think that buying and destroying firearms advances their goal, but as your pistols show, this is more likely to be governments with big budgets than private people spending their own money or donations.

    3. There was an article a few years back reporting on the privatization of one state’s parks; I think Arizona or New Mexico, but do not remember. Contrary to media expectations, the public was happier with the privatized parks. There were more and happier visitors, the parks were better maintained, and no, they didn’t plop down a McDonalds in every park. Someone had an explanation which astonished me just like Ian’s in its after-the-fact obviousness: government park budgets are set by legislators and have little to do with anything related to the actual business of running parks, and the last thing park managers want is more visitors, because their preset budget prevents them from hiring more staff or improving facilities, like adding restrooms or opening on weekends and holidays. But a private manager knows that if he invests a little money on improvements, he can probably attract more visitors, get more visitors to come back, and get more word-of-mouth free advertising. He has every incentive to do a better job.

    Ii believe this applies to all sorts of government activities, such as museums. Probably parking lots, harbors, and yes, schools, and a whole lot more.

  41. Most museums are publicly funded, which means that these museums will do whatever the govt tells them to do, including destroying all guns in their collection, and rewriting history to fit the narrative of the liberals in control of the govt.

    Even private museums can be controlled by govt, with regulations or new laws that demand the destruction of the guns in their collections or even rewrite history. Even private collectors are not immune to this problem. It would be better to keep these collections both private and secret, with the occasional video now and then by forgotten weapons, the identity of the private collections and collectors should be kept secret, for as along as possible.

  42. These days the libraries are in as bad or worse condition than the museums. My alma mater moved some 875,000 volumes to offsite storage to make more room for students to hang out and surf the web.

    I live in a town of 7500 people. There is not *one* book on electronics in the entire collection. The non-fiction librarian told me that you have to go to college to learn electronics! Over 50 years ago they had enough books for my friends and I to learn basic electronics and get our ham licenses.

    I tried to rebuild the collection in honor of one of the small group of us who died before 60 of cancer. No dice. They would not even accept book donations.

    • We are in the midst of what I term the “Great Endarkening”, my friend. The librarians have betrayed their cultural trust, and succumbed to the ephemeral gods of the momentary political whim. They’ve literally pulped much of our cultural heritage, which they were entrusted with.

      Worst thing is, it’s invisible. Right up until you go to try to find a particular work of knowledge, which is when you’re told it has been “deaccessioned”.

      The libraries and museums have been captured by the ideologues and entertainers. They no longer see themselves as caretakers of history or knowledge; instead, they are participants in the indoctrination of the general public, censors who prevent them from learning anything other than rote repetition of the party line of the moment.

      In a thousand years, they’re going to call this a Dark Age. And, they’ll be right to do so.

  43. Botanists do plants lepidopterists do butterflies/moths. Details are evetything. Ian is into the esoterica of firearms he should know better

    • If you’re going to make a point about attention to detail, summarizing that “Details are evetything” really shoots a big hole in your credibility.

      • Hello. I am both a collector and owner of a very small private museum in Poland. I have to hand it to you Ian, most of the things you said are true.
        EU makes everything they can to reduce the quantity of functional firearms in Europe. Most deactivated guns now are as you said solid, welded up chunks of steel with almost no value. The sand and funny thing is they are more expensive that the functional ones due to the work and deactivation process costs.
        Museums in Poland are full of historical firearms that were captured, given to them by veterans, confiscated by police etc, but only a very small amou t of them is shown on display.
        I dedicaded myself to saving firearmsin various contitions, that were dug up on battlefields, found after decades of being hidden and forgotten in old houses, being confiscated by police etc. You would be devastaded to know how many great objects are destroyed here in Poland each year. I am inspired by your work and I will do all I can to save as many historical objects I can.
        There is a big chance that even museums in Poland will have to deactivate their working guns in order to display them. Let us hope this will never happen but please, do not stop your work. It may be, that your videos will soon be the only source to see how some of the firearms work.
        I wish you all Happy New Year.

  44. Can you do another “How does it work?” video on cookoff, since it is, technically, a way a firearm can fire. It comes up frequently when machine gun design is mentioned, but since it only applies to a narrow class of military firearms and the name is so ambiguous, proper explanations aren’t common or easily found.

  45. Canterbury museum in Christchurch New Zealand dissipated a very fine gun collection including colt revolving rifle,Knock “volley gun” & WW1 trophy german machine guns captured on Gallipoli (by Canterbury troops.) also a German fighter aircraft! — museums can became stupid at times!

  46. Maybe the best solution in some cases are hybrids: Publicly accessable private collections.

    At least here in europe, some gun museums are simply publicly accessable gun collections of a single collector or several collectors. There are, for example, some groups of collectors who funded a “museum club” to be able to exchange knowledge with each other as well as with the public, to exchange physical guns and other collectable items with each other and to work on preservation/restauration projects.

    The guns may be stored and shown in the museum but they are in most cases still owned by- and can be used by an individual collector.

    Obviously this collections are threatend by stricter regulations in a simmilar way as normal private collections.

    Making private collections publicly accessable is not a special gun-thing. I know of, for example, private art collections, vehicle collections and natural history collections which are publicly accessable for the same reasons. Furthermore some private collectors borrow parts of their collections to museums, often a win-win situation: The museum can show the items and do research on them, the collector on the other hand does not need to care about secure storage and preservation.

    Many museums, even national museums, often try to maintain a good relationship to private collectors and make Items which are not in their publicly accessable collection accessable for them sometimes not just for “looking at them” but also for doing “research” which could even include shooting, in case of firearms.

  47. I worked as a volunteer at the USMC Air Ground Museum for a couple of years. I was a phone watch one day when a guy called wanting to know if the museum would like to acquire a rifle he owned. He said he was on the march from the Chosin when he was suddenly confronted by a Chink who was pointing his rifle at him. He knew that he was a dead man but when the bad guy pulled the trigger nothing happened. The Marines’ rifle worked fine and the rifle became his trophy. If memory serves it was Mosin in 30-06 caliber, something I had never heard of before. I was drooling over the phone because that is exactly the kind of story that makes history come alive. I put him touch with the curator but don’t know if the transfer ever occurred.

  48. Great topic. As the father of a now grown son, I understand the urge for museums to be more interactive (with video and such). This generation grew up playing with video games. Staring at glass cases need to be replaced with a means to access, hold, touch history. Perhaps having more docents would help.
    When my son was 14, his eyes lite up in the Imperial War museum when he was able to handle a Martini Henry (I guess I made him watch Zulu Dawn too many times). It was accessible and patrons were able to handle it. This could be more easily accomplished with more common pieces.
    Museums could be the source for both the expert and the novice.

  49. What you remark on is generally correct for every aspect of 21st century culture, and that includes museums. BUT America’s gun museums have done a pretty good job of combating this drift. The Golden Triangle of gun museums is in Oklahoma, where the Davis Museum, National Cowboy Museum and Woolaroc Museum have three very different ways of showing their excellent collections. Only a few hours north is the NRA Bass Pro Museum in Springfield. New York’s MET collection is stunning and is the most visited department in the museum, so much for anti-gun New Yorkers! Also the MET’s Arms and Armor website is the best there is, great images, great side notes, great lectures and essays, and paradoxically we have Michael Bloomberg to thank for that! And over in anti-gun Los Angeles, is the Autry Museum, with its fantastic collection of Colts. Even Chicago has some top grade stuff at the Art Institute, and don’t miss the Springfield Arsenal and Hartford museums in the Connecticut River Valley. Cody and NRA Fairfax you rightly mention. That said, there are some great collections that are buried deep in the vault away from public view, i.e Smithsonian, Nunnemacher, Milwaukee and Nebraska State Historical Museum, BUT the curators in all three museums are very willing to work with researchers. And yes, some museums are selling off, (The Frazier, KY) but at least the guns are going back in the private market for collectors, THEY ARE NOT being crushed in the USA as you imply, if only because they are worth good coin.

    Having visited over 30 firearm museums and collections in the US (see essay in BB Gun Values), I have found curators to be exemplary in showing and willing to DISASSEMBLE firearms as long as there is a valid need to promote knowledge and it won’t do harm. Often guns have their screws left loose by the last researcher or owner, to help the next. What you miss saying is that the serious firearm museums see the inside mechanism of a firearm the same as the outside, and are willing for their trained armorers/conservationists to open firearms up as long as no damage is done. In my experience, private collectors are far less willing to do this, although some do.

    In one of the comments below from Germany, the writer mentions that there are different kinds of research institutions: 1. general viewing, 2. close study and 3. archival use, I think you confuse this for us. The US has all of these, but it is a big country and the access you want is on a case by case situation. Each has its own (often lengthy) protocol for access, which is only fair. A robust relationship between private firearm collectors and public firearm museums is healthy, for both have their advantages and there are more than enough examples of firearms to satisfy both constituencies. Another commenter below remarks that gun shows are great ‘museums’ where you can touch everything and talk to knowledgeable people. And don’t forget Auction Houses, which are essentially ‘Pop-Up’ museums and they are always eager to help out researchers…especially yourself.

    So Ian, I think the final days of 2020 have made you a bit grumpy on this one, but that’s OK and I am not offended. No one disputes that you have done more for firearm appreciation and research than anyone. Forgotten Weapons has become THE go-to institution to learn about firearms, I do all the time. Your kindly demeanor, depth of knowledge, practical experience, humility and fluid presentation are exemplary. For a New Year’s Resolution, how about adding a few videos of the top ten firearm museum collections, especially the Smithsonian…which IMHO is the nations best, as it should be. And thank you for all you have done and will do in the future. Finally, what are you going to do with your own collection when you are ‘pushing up daisies’, open a museum or sell everything off? A museum gives unique context, the other solution does not.

  50. Re. Museum vs private ownership. I just listened to an NPR Planet Money podcast about art sales as investment instruments. And how a sizable amount of art is sold, packed up, and sent for storage to “Freeport” warehouses in duty free zones where the sale escapes sales tax, and it is not subject to any personal property taxes. The purchaser of the artwork never intended to buy it and personally appreciate it. They bought it solely for the financial appreciation.

  51. Outstanding presentation of a continual dilemma in museums, and with private collections. I agree with Mr. McCollum’s comments, and I have been involved with, or worked in, military museums for the past 50 years. As for “de-accessioning”, there have been so many cases of poorly-planned and executed programs that they have scared many curators and administrators in the museum community into inaction. However, as was noted here, its success all depends on good planning, strict controls, and ethics. The NatFirearmsMus (NRA) has a good approach to all this, and their program should be the model. Funnily enough, the NatMusMarCorps also has about 70 T49 FALs in its reserve collection, and it, too, needs to get energetic and find good homes for them. Ken Smith-Christmas

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