“Presentism”, Whiskey, Clips, & Museums: A Chat With Ashley Hlebinsky

I recently met up with Ashley Hlebinsky, former curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, and we sat down for a rambling discussion about the intersection of firearms and museums, mostly. Among other things, we will talk about her consulting work with the L.A. Police Museum and the Browning family, the changing direction of mainstream museums, testifying in court cases, and much more.

Oh, and a rye whiskey face-off between Kyro and Thumb Butte!

You can reach Ashley at theguncode@gmail.com, and find her on Instagram at @historyinheels .


  1. Like to see a little more information about which museums to visit for different collections. Charming guest, of course, and quite a useful video for museum people we presume. Whisky not required.

  2. “Presentism”
    Thanks for teaching us a new term.
    I have to be so careful about stating archaic expressions for fear that they might offend some modern person. For example, if I want to make a sarcastic comment about racists (e.g. KKK) I have to be mindful of my audience before opening my mouth.

    P.S. I have a Bachelor of Arts (History) Degree.

  3. “I wanted to see the dog.” According to one of Chieftain’s latest videos, showing the dog is required to not be thrown off the Internet

  4. Love this content! Such candor regarding the direction of museums today. The Peter principle is very much alive and well in our state historical parks administration and Ashley’s comments ring poignantly true.

  5. Ian…Peter principal?! Perhaps you are deeper than you are broad but your admission of ignorance is assuring none the less.
    Great post

  6. Whiskey chat fun. A conversation that certainly went places I didn’t expect. Museum dirty laundry? True crime TV? gun-control? The rudeness of some gun enthusiasts?

    Ashley is no idiot. She’s one of us, fighting the good fight. Good for her and shame on the insulters.

    If Ashley doesn’t already know, the Netflix show “Mindhunters” is just utterly fantastic true crime drama. But I bet she does know!

    I’m kind of saddened to hear that even the museum world seems inflicted by the same petty SJW politics that seems to be spreading through so many other American institutions. Though maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as the root of the problem seems to come from college graduates who were steeped in college campus SJW culture.

    I’m racking my brain for why people are so hung up on seemingly minor firearm nomenclature. At first I thought it’s merely a defensive reaction to the hot politics of gun-control. But maybe there’s more to it than that.

    Perhaps it’s a means of social signaling? To signify one is part of the gun-tribe and to sanction outsiders? Or maybe a means of gaining higher status by language policing?

    Maybe it’s just gun-nerd autism. Even I’m subject to that one, as I prefer the term ‘charger’ to ‘stripper clip’. And I’ve started to prefer using ‘self-loading’ over ‘semi-automatic’.

    Nomenclature can be surprising too, when you compare American terminology to say, French or German. Firearms certainly are a realm of art and history as much as science and industry.

    As far as ‘manual machinegun’ to categorize Gatlings, Gardners and whatnot, that seems like a fair and reasonable descriptor.

  7. #forgottenweapons does more than the average number of: “I’ll remember this video for more than ten minutes!” This one, after 10 minutes, is: “Ten years this! Ten years I’ll remember this! As long as I don’t get dementia.”.

  8. ‘……..conflict between collectors and private museums has been done to death………’

    If you haven’t already read it, I have to recommend ‘The Feather Thief’ by Kirk Wallace Johnson.
    It’s a true-crime account of the theft in 2009 of hundreds of rare ornithological specimens from the British Museum, for sale to fishing fly-tiers.

    High-end fly tiers are an obsessive and extraordinarily entitled bunch, often on the margins of the law as many or most of the feathers they seek come from species that are now endangered and protected. It can be a surprisingly shady world. (I’ve got some experience in the world of antique fishing tackle, I can confirm this).

    It’s a very engaging account of an obscure and bizarre conflict, which looks at the ethics and practicalities of the issues in a very readable way.


    • And the fish do not care what bird the feathers come from. It is all for the obsessive fishing fly makers and collectors. They all do not actuially go fishing and use those flys. Well they would notice that these ar no better than any cheap bought fly or any random homemmade fly.

  9. A most entertaining conversation to listen to.
    The importance of research libraries associated with museums, mentioned by Ashley, cannot be overestimated in my view. I had the pleasure to use the library at Leeds and the library of the Dutch military mueum when it was still at Delft. Both were a trove of unique information.
    It is sobering to learn that American institutions also suffer from the “consulting thing” and the absence of management “passion for the collection”. In Germany, in particular the Dresden military museum, the Suhl and Oberndorf weapon museums suffer from this syndrome. The latter in my view shows clear signs of it leadership being “biased against guns”. On the other hand, the staff of the “Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung” at Koblenz is highly motivated. But the bean counters, blind to the values of earlier experiences in what works and what does not work, are trying their best to scuttle this collection, literally at all costs.
    The fashion to impose today’s standards on decisions made a century ago in a totally different environment, is also ever present in Europe.
    As a foreigner, I sometimes found it difficult to understand what Ashley said, while Ian speaks a very clear English, as far as I am concerned. Generally, the second half of the conversation is the more interesting in my opinion.

    • I had a little bit trouble understanding Ashley’s accent too.

      Old age and hearing loss on my part?

      I downloaded the sound track so I could listen when I was driving

      Quite surprised at Ashley’s darker interests, I didn’t see that coming ,

  10. Mighty young to be a “curator emerita” no? Wonder what happened there… For many of us, something of a “dream job” no?

    • For many the position of curator sounds like a dream come true. The reality is, too often, more like a nightmare as your passion and skill set is confronted and confounded by administrators who are intent on counting their beans before offering historical content. I’ve watched dreams and hopes dashed by departmental politics several times, to the detriment of the facility. Side stepping into the role of consultant has it’s own rewards.

  11. 1. Disappointed about promise of dog, then let down.
    2. Politics has always and will always be a thorn in the side of historical truth.

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