Museum exhibit shows historical roles of guns

By Jessica Rodrigo - JRODRIGO@VICAD.COM
March 3, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.

In a time when grocery stores were a day's trip away, guns provided a means to find food for the family and entertainment.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend's newest exhibit, "Winning the West: Firearms in the Texas Coastal Bend," is home to about a dozen guns from the late 1600s to present day that illustrate their various uses over time.

Museum curator Eric Ray worked to build the exhibit for about six months before its unveiling in early February.

"They're really powerful objects, both physically and mentally," Ray said of the exhibit's main feature. "I think a lot of people are attracted to guns in one way or another."

After thumbing through the Victoria College/University of Houston-Victoria library and talking to different firearms collectors in South Texas, Ray put together "Winning the West" to show people the different roles of guns in society. And with all the talk in the government about gun control, he was sure to integrate that topic into the exhibit.

Ray added the idea behind the exhibit isn't to sway anyone's opinion to support or oppose gun control but instead to tell a story about guns.

"We hope that people come away with having thought something they didn't think about before," he said of the exhibit.

The exhibit is split into four categories of gun use: war, food, safety and fun. Guns play an important role in each of those areas of life, Ray said.

There is also a small range of guns on display from rusty, early dueling pistols to a few more pristine colt revolvers. And for the first time, artifacts recovered in 2002 from a shipwreck in Matagorda Bay are on display.

To make for a more interactive exhibit, Ray included a Wii game for the younger visitors to illustrate how guns would serve as entertainment.

At one end of the exhibit a few chalkboards make up a response wall where visitors can voice opinion on what they've taken from "Winning the West."

Visitors "can tell us what their reactions and interests are because they are so varied," he said

In addition to the Museum of the Coastal Bend's exhibits, the museum hosts guest speakers for lectures. Ray, using the "Winning the West" exhibit, will host a lecture about the work put into museum exhibits.

"A well-curated exhibit is a well-told story," he said. "How you decide what story to tell, how you decide what to put on the walls and what you put into the cases; there are many thousands of little decisions that go into that."

Some museums, he said, have exhibits that are just collections of artifacts, but he strives to build a story for the visitors to relate to.

"That's what we try to do here: tell essentially universal stories," Ray said.



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