Scholarship Highlight: Jennifer Tucker on Public History and Guns

  • Date:
  • July 17th, 2020

By: Joseph Blocher

Second Amendment scholars naturally spend a great deal of time and energy focusing on questions about the history of gun rights and regulation, but less time investigating questions about how that history is or should be presented to the public in venues like museum exhibits. Historian Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan) has done as much as any scholar I know to illuminate such questions, including (as she puts it):

how do firearms differ from other types of material culture in relation to their own historical contexts, and in how they are understood by museum visitors (and curators)? Do museums permit or encourage critical research? What can be done to improve museum/researcher relations? What is the place in firearms museums of the depiction of gun violence? How do museums give insights into history that differ from the accounts available in books?

Through the end of July, the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is making freely available a really fascinating interview that Prof. Tucker recently did with David Serlin (UC San Diego) about public history, COVID-19, and guns. As she puts it in the interview, “the historical study of gun technologies merits more attention than it currently receives. The study of guns and their social and cultural practices is a perfect example of the importance of inserting the study of technological developments into the history of politics and society.”

You can read the whole thing here. The discussion of guns begins around page 5, and there are some interesting graphics throughout, including of the NRA Firearms Museum.