By way of introduction, I am British, a resident of the US for over thirty years and an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in the Department of Architecture & Design (AIADO). For the past two years I have been working on a book about every aspect of America’s firearm/ammunition culture specifically for the community I work with - designers and academic cultural critics of all stripes. I have found that there is significant ambivalence towards 19-21st century firearm/ammunition scholarship in art & design academia and have decided to take on the task of untangling it, in order to show its dignity and considerable importance to the design field. I will be teaching a course at SAIC called ‘Guns: Myth & Manufacture’ this fall. My novice ammunition collection is about 100, with single examples of major types, not specializations within the categories.
One section of the book covers firearm museums and over the past eighteen months I have visited fifteen firearms museums at, West Point, Springfield Armory, Rock Island, Wadsworth Atheneum, MMA, NRA National, Davis, Cody, AIC Harding, Woolaroc, Autry, National Cowboy, Frasier, NRA Bass Pro as well as England’s Royal Armouries (Leeds), The Wallace Collection and the Australia War Memorial in Canberra. The remaining American museums to visit are the Smithsonian’s National Firearms Collection, John Browning Museum, S&W collections at the Springfield Wood Museum and S& W Factory and the Colt Firearms Mus. in Hartford, all of which I will visit this summer, save Browning. I am/have written a 5,000± word essay about each one.
During this tour of firearm museums I have been greatly surprised, actually dumbfounded, at how little there is on display on the history of ammunition and how few cartridges are exhibited with firearms. When I visited the Cody Firearms Museum, I made a tour of the Olin cartridge collection in storage, but very little was on display and certainly not curated, except for their strong collection of British and American cartridge boards.
From various sources, I have been told that the FBI Firearms/Toolmarks Unit at Quantico has an excellent semi-public collection, and I have just contacted them. Can anyone point me to any publicly accessible collections of ammunition?
Two much larger questions would be:
- Why is there not a Museum of Ammunition in the US?
- Are there current plans to create one?
One aside: yesterday I visited a firearms collector (not an ammunition collector) who had a single 1" x 4.5" rimfire Gatling cartridge with no head stamps. He did not know what it was. The bullet is sunk deep into the shell, its tip appearing only as a hemisphere. What would this be, and its age/value?