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Request[AMA Request] Sister Margaret Ann, the chainsaw-wielding nun helping clean up after Hurricane Irma

Sep 13th 2017 by tomkel5 • 32 Questions • 104 Points

Hi Reddit, we are the Cody Firearms Museum here to answer questions. We are a museum in NW Wyoming near Yellowstone and we have over 7,000 firearms and 28,000+ related artifacts in our collection. We interpret the history of firearms from the 1400s to the present. Our oldest firearm dates to at least the fifteenth century and our newest was made last year. We are the repository for the Winchester Factory Collection & Corporate Archive, the Eli Whitney Jr. Collection, the Benjamin Butler Collection, and the Edwin Pugsley Collection. We also have the archives of Schuyler, Hartley, & Graham, Marlin, L.C. Smith, and Ithaca.

We are part of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which includes the Whitney Western Art Museum, Plains Indian Museum, Buffalo Bill Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and McCracken Research Library. The Center is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and we currently planning a major renovation of our museum. If you want to search our collection go here for objects, or here for archival material, or just check our post history. Our Curator, Ashley, and Assistant Curator, Danny, are here to answer your questions for the next couple of hours. Ask us about firearms history, museums, or whatever.

Twitter proof.

Or check us out on Facebook or Instagram.

Update: Thanks for the questions everyone! We had fun. We have to run to meetings, but if you have more ask and we'll check back.

Q:

What is the fuddiest thing you have heard from museum patrons?

A:

We heard a great story yesterday about how John Browning invented semi-autos by putting a spoon on the end of a barrel. We also heard a good story about how someone's Model 1886 Winchester took part in the Battle of Little Bighorn, which happened in 1876.


Q:

I got a chance to meet some of your team at the Ohio Gun Collector's Association show last weekend; they were showing me their process for looking up Winchester serials and deciphering all of the old factory records and ledgers you guys have access to. Super dense, flowery old-timey handwriting, notes sideways in the margins, strike-throughs and corrections...enough to drive somebody mad.

So aside from being forced to get really familiar with Winchester factory foremen shorthand and 130 year old abbreviations and slang, what's the most surprising/interesting thing you've unearthed about how the business was run and guns were made back in that time?

A:

How most of John Browning's designs were modified before they made it to production. It was a combination of design genius and production know how.


Q:

Two different kinds of genius; inventing a thing, and adapting it to mass production.

A:

We have the Winchester's drawing collection, two-thirds of it is how to make the tools to make the guns.


Q:

Why not an actual shooting range with some less rare guns?

A:

We have talked about starting a collection of non-accessioned firearms for the purpose of shooting, but it would be difficult, we don't really have the staff or facility to make that happen. The range in town does a really good job already giving people a chance to shoot reproductions.


Q:

On a scale of 1 to Houston how wet were you when Based Gun Jesus Ian was shooting at your museum?

A:

Florida? He also brought me whiskey so that was nice. I drank it all, so he should come back - Ashley


Q:

Nice. Do you know if that made Karl jealous?

A:

Not sure, but Karl should come sometime.


Q:

Did most of the firearms come from donations? I can't imagine the cost of purchasing that many antiques off the market.

A:

Haha if only I had that kind of money. About 4,000 of our 7,000 guns came from the Winchester Arms Collection. It was started in the 1860s by Oliver Winchester and includes guns from all of history. The other collections are from individuals and gun companies...but if we find something super awesome, we do try to buy it


Q:

Why did you find it important to mention that you are millenials in your title post?

A:

Because it seems to not be what people expect when they hear "Arms Curator" - Danny

Because it's better than saying I'm a girl - Ashley


Q:

Ah mah gerd, a girl! Quick, hide the porn.


Q:

What is the biggest misconception younger people have regarding firearms?

A:

There's so many misconceptions about guns, I could go on for days. But I think many younger people don't realize the diversity in the types of firearms that have been developed since the 1200s and also how integral firearms have been to so many different facets of history

I think there's also a common misconception too that there's a lack of younger people interested in firearms history. Bustle just did an article on millennials and firearms the other day.


Q:

which of the oldest firearms require the least amount of maintenance and care (humidity, etc...)? which are the most fragile relative to their age?

A:

Most of the firearms have pretty similar care requirements. So we maintain temperature and humidity. The most fragile gun we had was probably the Great Basin Winchester that went viral a few years ago. The park brought it to us to stabilize before it went on display back at Great Basin.


Q:

Was that the one found leaning against a tree? Imagine being the person who found that jewel.

A:

Yes it was, we still get questions about it.


A:

The X-ray was how we found the cartridge in the stock.


Q:

Haha that's like saying "You said most of your collections were Hondas. I instantly thought of my Toyota."

A:

We've failed you, if it was Firefly or X-Files we might have been there.


Q:

Which firearm(s) are your favorites and which one(s) are you proudest of having in the collection?

A:

Our favorites change a lot based on what we are researching at the time, maybe one of the most proud is Oliver Winchester's Jennings rifle. We know it is his because of a letter he wrote which we have and we consider it the oldest reference to our collection.


Q:

What's the oldest gun you have there?

A:

We have a barrel of a hand cannon that might be 13th century, and a breechblock from a cannon that dates to the 15th century.


Q:

Dude that's so cool

A:

We think so!


Q:

Do you think the Nagant revolver shot more friendly retreating Russians or enemies during its time in use?

A:

We're not sure if it shot anything, that trigger pull is ridiculous to keep on target.


Q:

Why is it called the Cody museum?

A:

When Winchester donated their collection originally it was called the Winchester Arms Museum. When the current museum opened in 1991 Bill Ruger was on our board and wrote a million dollar check to, "Name this son of bitch anything other than a firearms manufacturer." So the board changed the name to the town's namesake, Cody. The quote is from the meeting minutes.


Q:

This may be sorta off topic, but is there a lot of interest in firearms history in the academic arena? Do you ever see PhD candidates doing their dissertations in firearms history going through your doors?

A:

We occasionally get some form of academic research in firearms, but it's limited. It's something we want to encourage since we think we have some great primary resources for it, but it is pretty niche in the academic world.


Q:

That's unfortunate :(. It's been my dream to one day quit my job and get a PhD in history researching something I'm actually passionate about.

A:

It's not impossible, but it is a narrow track.


Q:

Other than visiting the museum, how can the public help support the museum, make donations, etc.

Are there any programs or workshops offered to patrons where they can get hands on experience with replicas?

A:

We are currently fundraising an $8million dollar renovation. So if anyone wants to help with that give us a shout!

We offer educational programs all summer where visitors can get hands on with replicas. We will have more educational and hands on opportunities when the renovated museum opens in 2019. But by next summer we would like to do a joint venture with the local gun range where you get a tour of the museum in the morning and then head over to the gun range and shoot reproductions of the historic guns you saw


Q:

Is there a firearm in the collection you looked at for the first time and thought, "what was the designer thinking?(!)"

A:

We have a gun on loan from the Smithsonian called the Josselyn Chain Revolver. It is the patent model. It is a tiny pistol with a large bicycle- like chain that functions like a cylinder...only not at all


Q:

Have you ever shot a Winchester 1895 in 7.62x54r? And can you give me one?

A:

Haven't shot one before, but we do have some. They gotta stay here though.


Q:

Are you hiring?

A:

Not right now, but we do take paid interns during the summer.


Q:

Where would one apply for that internship position, on the website?

A:

https://centerofthewest.org/learn/internships/

2018 positions will probably be posted in January.


Q:

Would your collection happen to include any shotguns from Japan in the late 1800s [Meiji Restoration-era]?

I know pistols and rifles were most common in that time period for Japan, but I haven't found much about shotguns.

A:

Unfortunately not, our collection is weaker when it comes to Asian firearms.


Q:

Perhaps I missed it but is the COdy Firearms Museum all your doing or did you guys just take over from a previous curator?

A:

The original iteration of the museum was known as the Winchester Arms Museum, which opened in 1976, then it became the Cody Firearms Museums in 1991. So we have a long line of Curators to follow.


Q:

What's your rarest British piece?

A:

It's a close competition. We have an EM-2, an English Wheelock made in the 1600s with provenance through most of its life, and the only surviving Brown Bess from the Colonial 51st Regiment.


Q:

Because you can find old white dudes talking about guns anywhere

A:

We didn't think too much about it, apparently we should have.


Q:

What futuristic or fake gun do you wish you could own?

A:

The Burton is pretty space rifley, but we have it. I'd really like to get some sci-fi movie prop guns in the collection - Danny

Zoe's Mare's Leg - Ashley


Q:

What does the museum's collection of more modern guns look like?

A:

Our modern collection is rather sad although we are always trying to improve it. When we got the Winchester Collection on loan in 1975, we had firearms pretty much up until that date. Without the corporate collecting from Winchester, it's been difficult to keep adding current firearms - especially ones that people don't consider historic. We do have a great Glock exhibit though!