Danny Michael is the Robert W. Woodruff Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, Editorial Board member of Armax: The Journal of Contemporary Arms, and co-founder (with our own Ashley Hlekinsky) of the Kurt Swanson Bucholz Arsenals of History symposium.
I’m back in Cody from the fifth in-person Arsenals of History Symposium and the first ones the Cody Firearms Museum hosted outside of Cody. As an organizer, I’m more than a little partial but I’m extremely happy with the attendance and sessions that we had this year. We booked the Springfield Armory National Historic site and worked with the National Park Service to host the meetings adjacent to the original armory building on the Springfield Technical Community College campus that is intertwined with the historic site. Having a destination on the East Coast was an important goal for us as travel to Cody was a limiting factor for attendance at past symposia. Given that the symposium is a conference around the history and material culture of firearms it only seems fitting that we traveled it at some point to the home place of so many historic firearms manufacturers.
From some spontaneous street view comparisons it seems the conference hotel was on the former Smith and Wesson campus, Springfield Armory was just up the street, and Colt and Winchester a relatively (by Wyoming standards) short drive away. The historic setting added character to the conference, but our primary goal continues to be spreading the good word about the importance of firearms history and material culture. This year had sessions on everything from previously obscure shotshell adapters for grenade launchers to studies on forensic archaeology. A particularly popular session was a ballistic study of the Battle of Lexington and Concord at the beginning of the American Revolution. The range of topics within the field of firearms history was remarkable.
A theme of the sessions is the importance of educating each other so that we can better educate the general public. I hope the symposium continues to do so. Firearms material culture is an understudied and under-utilized field in within the academy. Much like an action movie that edits a hammer onto a Glock pistol, a historian can quickly lose credibility in the details. And beyond the details, artifacts are powerful tools to connect to the past. It’s the reason why the museum field exists.
If you are interested in the field, please consider yourself invited to Arsenals of History 2024!