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Museum exhibit to explore regional history through guns

Dec. 15, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.

In this undated photo from the Lillian Obsta Collection at the Victoria Regional History Center, VC/UHV Library, Dorothy O'Connor, left, an unidentified woman, Grace Rogers and Rena Marsh  hold a rifle and shotgun.   It is part of the Museum of the Coastal Bend's  exhibit on guns, "Winning the West: Firearms in the Texas Coastal Bend."

From hunting and war to target shooting and John Wayne, guns are a part of Texas' heritage and culture.

Beginning Feb. 12, visitors to the Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College can explore regional history through guns.

A new temporary exhibit titled "Winning the West: Firearms in the Texas Coastal Bend" uses historic guns, photographs, toys and artwork to show the links that firearms have to regional history and culture.

The phrase "firearms in Texas" calls up images of six-shooters in the Old West. While there are plenty of those in the exhibit, there's more than might be expected.

"Even though we might think of saloon shoot-outs and masked bandits in the Wild West, guns have been with us for a long time," said Eric Ray, museum curator.

Guns were a source of food for settlers making a new home in Texas. They were also instrumental in the establishment of Texas during the Texas Revolution, Ray said.

Victorians commissioned a shipment of guns to be used in the revolution, though the guns never made it to Texas.

They were lost in a shipwreck in Matagorda Bay, and pieces were recovered in 1998 by the Texas Historical Commission.

"The guns didn't make it here in time for the Revolution," Ray said. "But they're making it to Victoria after all, even if it's almost 180 years late."

Marks show that some of the guns were originally issued to the British Army, a theme that is common in the exhibit.

"Guns were used and used and used, changed from style to style as technology improved. They were not disposable," Ray said.

Winning the West doesn't stop with real guns. John Wayne's movie six-shooters and BB guns were an important part of many childhoods, and the exhibit includes the impact of guns on pop culture and toys.

"When you grow up with cowboy movies and books and plinking cans with a BB gun, it can't help but affect the way you look at the world," Ray said. "Those shared experiences are as much a part of history as anything else."



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