The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is preparing to embark on a roughly $12 million revamping of the Cody Firearms Museum.
After shutting down the present museum for the work, an expanded, remodeled Firearms Museum will reopen in June or July of 2019.
The idea, kicking off a fundraising effort, was initially announced by CEO and executive director Bruce Eldredge in April of 2015 when it was a $10 million plan.
To date $8 million has been raised for the project and Eldredge said another $4 or $5 million is being sought.
The museum houses 7,000 guns.
When what the Center terms a “reinstalled” Firearms Museum is finished, more firearms will be on display.
At no time during the construction work will all firearms be out of sight of visitors. The plan is to produce a special exhibit of the collection’s top 75 guns and sprinkle other firearms exhibits throughout the rest of the 325,000-square-foot museum. There is 175,000 square feet of exhibition space.
That includes placing guns in the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Museum of Natural History, the Whitney Western Art Museum and the Plains Indian Museum.
“There will be 500 to 1,000 guns on display,” Eldredge said. “It’s a very good chunk.”
In setting up temporary exhibits in those museums, Eldredge said the firearms will be “related to that discipline. You will always be able to see a lot of firearms.”
In connection with the reopening, Eldredge said, the museum plans to publish a book featuring what it considers to be its top 50 gun holdings.
Although Eldredge originally announced the goal of raising $10 million for the project, he said it is now $12 million or $13 million.
“We want to do more than originally planned,” he said.
Some significant contributions towards the Firearms Museum’s new look came in the form of grants.
The National Endowment for the Humanities bestowed a grant of $300,000 on the Center through its Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Center a Museums For America grant of $255,000.
Ashley Hlebinsky, the Firearms Museum’s Robert W. Woodruff Curator, said the changes will “be extraordinary.”
Hlebinsky said the combination of remodeling and making more efficient use of available space, will permit the museum to show off more guns to visitors at one time.
“The goal will be 4,500,” she said. “Our target is 4,500. It’s guaranteed there will be more guns on display.”
Under the present configuration, there are about 3,000 guns on view at once.
Also included in the plans are the addition of more interactive and interpretive displays explaining history.
Hlebinsky said this is critical in a museum like this one. Since the Buffalo Bill Center of the West boasts of having five museums under one roof, not all visitors see the Firearms Museum as their destination.
“We get a lot of people who might (need more explanations),” she said.
It is possible the vast firearms collection will also expand.
“We are looking to see the holes in our history,” Hlebinsky said. “We come at it with having the most complete collection we can.”
Many details in the planning are still being worked out, but Eldredge said the goal is June, 2019 for what would be a soft opening, with a grand opening event on July 4.