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Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Decade of Ashley Hlebinsky

After nine-and-a-half years as part of the Center of the West family, Cody Firearms Museum Curator Ashley Hlebinsky is moving on to pursue new career opportunities, help other museums across the country with their firearms collections, and (finally) live in the same state as her husband.  

While she’ll still serve us as a Curator Emerita and Senior Firearms Scholar, it’s a bittersweet moment for us at the Center to see her take on new pursuits. We’re certainly proud of her accomplishments and excited for her future plans! 

Hlebinsky has taken on multiple roles in the Cody Firearms Museum over the past decade, and she’s been around for some major changes and exciting surprises. Let’s take a look at her time here with us. 

Research Fellow 

Hlebinsky as a research fellow in 2012.

Prior to her time at the Center, Hlebinsky was an assistant to the firearms curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. But in 2011, she became a Buffalo Bill Center of the West Research Fellow, publishing and presenting on the perception of firearms in popular culture. She was also a Cody Firearms Museum Kinnucan Arms Chair Grant recipient, studying role of women in the firearms industry. 

Great Basin Gun 

Hlebinsky inspecting the “Forgotten Winchester” rifle.

In 2014, an archaeologist in Great Basin National Park discovered a Winchester Model 1873 rifle leaning against a tree — the butt of the rifle submerged beneath 3 to 5 inches of soil. This rifle, now known as the “Forgotten Winchester,” had been leaning against the tree for decades — perhaps 100 years or more. 

The rifle was sent to the Cody Firearms Museum for inspection and conservation, where Hlebinsky and other staff members inspected the rifle and found a live round in the buttstock dated between 1887 and 1911. 

Curator 

Hlebinsky at the Smithsonian re-opening in 2015.

In 2015, Hlebinsky was named the Robert W. Woodruff Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, becoming the first-ever female curator running a firearms museum in the United States.

MASTER OF ARMS

Through her time at the Center, Hlebinsky has become a much sought-after radio and television figure on the subjects of firearms and culture. In 2018, she served as a co-host on the Discovery Channel show “Master of Arms.” The show ran for one season and focused on weapons craftsmen creating functional and beautiful historical weapons. 

 NEW CFM Tiny hammer, big ideas: Hlebinsky oversees demolition of the old CFM in 2018.

In summer 2019, the Center opened the fully redesigned and reimagined Cody Firearms Museum after more than five years of planning, fundraising, object management, and construction. The museum houses over 10,000 firearms and related artifacts, making it one of the largest of its kind. 

From Left: Hlebinsky, then Board Chair Barron Collier, and John Gallagher at the grand opening of the new Cody Firearms Museum on July 6, 2019.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ASHLEY IN THE FUTURE? 

You’ll still see Ashley on the Cody Firearms Museum Facebook and Instagram (@codyfirearmsmuseum) pages, and appearing on television shows about firearms, war, and American history. You can also follow her on her personal Instagram account @guncurator. 

What will Ashley do next? Whatever it is, we’re looking forward to it!