Cody Firearms Museum Exhibits
Firearms have existed for hundreds of years. They play integral roles in countless narratives that address conflict, war, individual usage and ownership, manufacturing, sport, science, technology, and art. Our Cody Firearms Museum celebrates this diversity in firearms history.
The Cody Firearms Museum underwent a full redesign and reinstallation and reopened in July 2019. The new museum exhibits thousands of firearms dating back to 1400, and continuing to modern day. Through engaging and interpretive displays, the museum better contextualizes the various roles firearms have played in the history of human endeavor.
Cody Firearms Museum themes
The front of the museum is dedicated to Firearms Safety and Basics alongside the modern shooting sports. It encompasses a tactile learning experience where visitors interact with mechanical actions to discover how the distinct types of firearms function. They also learn pertinent terminology (rifle, cartridge, carbine, caliber, pistol, revolver, gauge, etc.) that they’ll encounter on labels and within text panels throughout the rest of the museum. To the rear of this section is a simulated firearms experience where visitors find out about modern day shooting sports, firearms safety, proper firearms handling, and other tips of the range.
Essentially, the entrance to the new museum orients the firearms novice to the function of firearms to gain that “baseline of understanding” as they explore the museum. For those more adept at firearms, visitors can choose to participate in the discovery learning area or walk left into the museum’s galleries.
Evolution of Firearms
This section is a comprehensive timeline covering the entirety of firearms history. A central case runs down the left side of the museum discussing not only technological changes, but why these technologies evolved. This is an opportunity for visitors to draw larger connections to firearms with diverse cultures and world events. These artifacts are accompanied by a series of tablets that demonstrate the firearms in action. While the timeline is a chronology, it is also accompanied by thematic pullout galleries on both sides that discuss significant times of transition in this lengthy history.
This timeline also functions as a “Fast Track” version of the museum for those who do not have enough time or the desire to linger in the museum.
Story of the West
In the center of the timeline, one of the thematic segments is dedicated to the mythology of the West and the reality behind firearms “Winning the West.” It will posit the popular culture that we associate with the region and challenge misperceptions about the actual history. This small display on the timeline opens to the right to lead visitors down a corridor where they next address firearms roles in the real West.
The core of this section is a recreated western town. In the middle of the gallery is a media interactive that addresses well-known firearms of the American West and tracks them from design to distribution. The museum retains its nineteenth-century arms factory from the former configuration so that visitors can learn about brand names associated with the West, such as Winchester and Colt. In a hunting cabin, they can view an exhibit and a movie on the history of hunting from fur trapping to the conservation movement. In a recreation of the Browning Brothers original store, visitors learn about gun designers who lived and worked in the West. The final structure is a small store where visitors learn the types of guns that people could afford in the American West.
The military history wing has two main components. The first is a traditional military weapons display around the periphery of the exhibition area. This section is to be densely packed with firearms and showcases the evolution of firearms from early conflicts on American soil to more modern battles fought globally by Americans. Using a simulator, visitors may even fire a Browning M2 machine gun.
The second component focuses on soldiers’ experiences expressed through oral histories. A tent is in the center of the gallery, and inside, viewers can hear and read oral histories of soldiers. Projected on the outside of the tent is filmed battle footage. The Room of Reflection at the back of the gallery is an ongoing oral history space for current veterans. There, they can record their own stories for the Center to keep and share in the future.
Science of Firearms
This miniature science center comprehensively examines the physics of precision. Like the Introductory area, this hands-on gallery invites visitors to learn and understand firearms mechanics. It also looks at popular misperceptions of firearms and their accessories. For example, are silencers silent?
The section also features long-range rifle and shotgun simulators. Unlike the shooting galleries at the entrance of the current museum that focus on basic handling, the new section takes that knowledge one step further: It teaches visitors about the mechanics of both firearms and ammunition.
Art of Firearms
Located next to the science wing, the art of the firearms exhibit looks at embellishment throughout history, with an emphasis on nineteenth-century factory custom shop engraving, presentation arms, and commemorative firearms. In addition to drawing connections to art, visitors can create their own styles of engraving using a computer program.
The special exhibits gallery is the most fluid. It will have displays on a rotating basis which may include thematic exhibitions, as well as manufacturer’s and collector’s displays.
Collector and Research Level
The CFM’s lower level is dedicated to the enthusiast and collector, and includes a video about the art of collecting. A gun library allows visitors to study thousands of firearms up close and on both sides by means of clear storage displays. Also in the lower level, visitors can view patents and prototypes, and scholars are able to schedule time to do their own research in the museum’s new reading rooms.