Museum exhibit to explore regional history through guns
Women holding a rifle and shotgun
(L-R) Dorothy O'Connor, an unidentified woman, Grace Rogers and Rena Marsh are pictured holding a rifle and shotgun. Lillian Obsta Collection. Victoria Regional History Center, VC/UHV Library. Date unknown.

From hunting and war to target shooting and John Wayne, guns are a part of Texas’ heritage and culture. Beginning on February 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 shootouts and masked bandits in the Wild West, guns have been with us for a long time,” said Eric Ray, curator at the Museum of the Coastal Bend.

Ray said 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. 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,” said Ray.

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. How many people have heard ‘you’ll shoot your eye out’?”

The exhibit opens Tuesday, Feb. 12 and runs through the fall. The museum is still looking for guns and gun-related artifacts for the exhibit. Ray invites anyone with information or questions to contact him at (361) 582-2511 or stop by the Museum of the Coastal Bend, located on VC’s Main Campus on the corner of Ben Jordan and Red River.

Published: Thursday, 13 December 2012

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