I have been Curator for six months and employed at the Cody Firearms Museum on and off for five years. So I should know every one of our 7,000 firearms and their locations by heart, right?
But when you manage an encyclopedic collection, it’s common to find undiscovered gems. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending game of “Where’s Waldo.”
I had one of those moments a few months ago. I was walking through the gallery and amidst several Winchester Model 1887 shotguns, I paused for the first time.
My eye first caught serial number 1—which was awesome enough—but I then read the single sentence on the label: “Purchased by Henry Ford and presented to Harvey Firestone.” I was floored to see both serial number 1 and the connection to two automobile industry tycoons.
The Winchester Model 1887 is one of the first successful repeating shotguns. Designed by John Browning, Winchester continued their brand recognition with a lever action shotgun. The provenance of this gun is almost poetic since firearm and automobile invention historically have intersected frequently.
Seeing this firearm was a bittersweet moment. We strive to strike a balance between retaining quantity on display and highlighting one-of-a-kind firearms so the visitor doesn’t walk by them as even I have. But we also use these learning experiences to work toward improving the museum for generations to come.