• Present Arms: Displaying Weapons in Museums

      Bruggeman, Seth C., 1975-; Urwin, Gregory J. W., 1955- (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)
      Museums have always had and displayed weapons, including firearms. As museums have evolved, so too has exhibit design and practice. However, many weapons displays have not kept up with changing practices, and many of them are now irrelevant, have limited audiences, or are unhelpful to the broader public. Simply displaying weapons by type or as art is not enough anymore, and keeping them in storage does not take advantage of their potential. Also, many museums are increasingly trying to become places for public discourse about current issues. They often create exhibits meant to be relevant to today and promote discussions about controversial topics. Many museums are also trying to make their collections and objects more accessible to the public. Innovative displays of firearms could help them accomplish both these tasks. The battle over gun control and gun rights is often more of a shouting match than reasoned discourse. Museums could use historic firearms as an opportunity to help facilitate a more responsible conversation about the issue. These firearms are typically not as emotionally charged as modern guns, and could be used as a pathway into the gun debate if displayed creatively. Guns, historic or not, are often not very approachable objects for many people. This can be for a variety of reasons, including their associations with masculinity, power, and nationality. Museums should experiment with new ways to display firearms that can make them more approachable and accessible to broader audiences, and ideally to the entire public.