As someone who is very interested in the practical handling of old firearms, the idea of gun museums leaves me a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I am absolutely in favor of guns being preserved for posterity, and there is no better environment for that than a museum. On the other hand, once guns go into a museum they tend to be locked permanently behind glass (or worse, packed in crates in a reserve attic or basement) under institutional policies that make it impossible to fire or disassemble them. Museums tend to put guns into stasis – they continue to exist and can be seen, but one can learn little more from them at that point.
When rare and interesting guns are in private collections, they are accessible to far, far fewer people – but the people owners are often much more open to the idea of handling and firing them – and one can learn far more about a gun by actually using it than by simply looking at an example hanging on a wall. It’s a tradeoff, and there are good reasons to look to either option.
Of course, the best possible option would be for a public museum that IS actually willing to shoot parts of its collection. Believe it or not, the best example of that is the British Royal Armouries, which includes the old Pattern Room collection. They have an indoor range facility, and do fire guns from their collections from time to time. In fact, they appear to have recently gotten access to a seriously high-end slow motion camera and put it to use on some interesting guns. Very cool! Have a look:
Lewis (including use of paper confetti to show the ventilation system functioning):
Bergmann MP 18/I (using the Luger snail drum):
Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver: