Winter 2023 Museum Workshop

Theories, Practices, and Pedagogies of Contested Histories in Museum Exhibits

In December 2023, CSGS brought together 21 museum professionals for a workshop that explored a wide range of possibilities and challenges of museum curatorship with historical firearm exhibits. Funded in part by the New England Humanities Consortium, this event exemplifies the center’s mission of fostering and supporting new collaborations between universities and museums.

Participants discussed the complexities of presenting firearms in their historical context while acknowledging contemporary society’s complex relationship with guns today. They raised a range of questions including: How are guns and their histories exhibited and narrated? Do museums have special ethical responsibilities in public history? What roles do museum visitors play in creating understandings of the past? What is the nature of the relationship between history and museums? What role, if any, do public exhibitions of firearms collections serve in today’s gun debate?

They also broadened the conversation to include teaching complex histories to students, engaging communities with a process of memorialization, and embracing a multifaceted approach to historical interpretation that goes beyond “both sides.”

CSGS, in partnership with Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, continues to explore these, and other, questions through joint projects that grapple with the complicated history of firearms manufacturing. Tucker also joined colleagues on a panel titled “Interpreting the History of Firearms at Museums and Historic Sites: A Public History Conversation,” at the National Council on Public History Conference in April 2024, and the Connecticut League of Museums Annual Conference in June 2024.