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Ways of (Not) Seeing Guns: Presence and Absence at the Cody Firearms Museum

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Boasting over 6000 objects, including replicas of a western hardware store, a frontier stage stop, and a late nineteenth-century industrial factory, the Cody Firearms Museum, located at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, is “the largest and most important collection of American firearms in the world.”1 The museum, which creates a decidedly visual space through its near-exclusive engagement with looking, employs an aesthetic of domestication and sterility to frame firearms for museumgoers. Even as it transforms guns into inert objects of visual pleasure, the museum cannot fully erase the history of violence and colonial conquering in which guns played a starring role. The museum's rhetorical effectivity/affectivity, then, turns upon the unique play of presence and absence.

Keywords: Absence; Cody Firearms Museum; Materiality; Presence; Visual Space

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2011


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