Route 66 News

Gun museum in jeopardy?

The future does not look bright for the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum on Route 66 in Claremore, Okla., reported the Tulsa World.

The museum’s foundation is suing the state, which oversees the museum’s massive collection that’s valued at tens of millions of dollars. The foundation is citing neglect, mismanagement and theft. The worst-case scenario is that the entire collection could be liquidated and the museum shut down permanently.

Excerpts from the story paint a dire picture about the museum’s operation:

“You could tell that some of the cases that housed the guns hadn’t been opened in 30 to 40 years,” said Hefner, a Plano, Texas, resident and member of the J.M. Davis Foundation. “It was just atrocious. We took gloves and rags and tried to clean up as we went. But we don’t have the knowledge to take them down and clean them and care for them.” […]

[T]hat audit report found that the museum was missing 125 firearms of the 13,354 guns that were actually counted. The value of the missing firearms was placed at more than $1 million, documents show.

The audit also has revealed that guns and artifacts weren’t being properly cleaned and maintained. In the petition, the foundation maintains that air-conditioning issues, which cause problems such as rusting and fungal growth, and roof leaks have threatened the collection for years.

Two local lawmakers said they were unhappy that the foundation brought the suit, and it had never approached them about the museum’s problems.

I have a strong hunch the foundation is engaging in saber-rattling. I don’t think there’s any way the state or City of Claremore would allow the museum’s collection to be scattered to the four winds.

That said, it’s apparent in an accompanying timeline that the museum’s management has left a lot to be desired. It’s also my opinion the museum’s marketing and fundraising have been lackluster. It houses an amazing collection — you’d think a more creative team would find novel and attention-getting ways of publicizing the museum on the Web, on television, etc.

The museum also needs to be more than rows of display cases. It needs more multimedia and interactive offerings to tourists.

And here’s a little suggestion — start selling those gift-shop items online. That’s a revenue source that’s not being fully exploited.

So the foundation probably will back off if there’s a full-bore management shakeup. And it probably will get its wish.

UPDATE: The World has a follow-up story with comments from the chairman of the museum’s commission, who naturally refutes many of the foundation’s allegations.

Regardless of whether the collection was neglected, my contention stands that the museum’s attempts at marketing itself and maximizing its revenues have been feeble. The museum is sitting on a virtual treasure trove, and it’s simply not getting the word out effectively.

UPDATE2: In recent days, a member of the foundation has resigned in protest of its decision to sue the state. And the Claremore City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the museum and its “continued operation” in the city.

So the foundation is getting pressure to back off.


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