Museum transition

Frazier Arms Museum
redefining image for broader appeal

New name, website to part of new campaign

By Don Ward

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 2006) – After 11/2 years since opening in May 2004, the $32 million Frazier Historical Arms Museum in downtown Louisville is about to enter a transition that officials there hope will better define the collection to the public.

Frazier Arms Tableaus

Photos provided

Battle tableaus (above) and armor dress
(below) are among the exhibits
at the Frazier Arms Museum.

The five-story museum at 829 W. Main St. houses Owlsey Brown Frazier’s private gun collection as well as an impressive, one-of-a-kind collection of armaments from the British Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England, and Tower of London. There is also a 48-seat theater and several videos screenings throughout the museum.
But there is much more. The museum features exhibits, tableaus and timeline boards that are as much about history as weapons. All of the lifesize tableaus were designed in Europe and reconstructed upon arrival in Louisville. Some include full-size warrior-mounted horses in full battle dress.
The facility has an aggressive outreach program to schools and nursing homes, and has its own classroom for visiting school groups. Grade-schoolers participate in scavenger hunts, sleepovers, “Breakfast with the Knight,” and watch some of the diverse demonstrations performed by the museum’s costumed interpreters.
“A lot of people walk past our door every day on their way to the Louisville Slugger Museum (across the street) and say, ‘What is that?’ They think we’re just about guns, but we have a lot more to offer,” said Frazier Museum marketing administrator Michelle Gelback, 23.
She added that once people visit, their experiences help sell the museum to others via word of mouth. “Once they come in, they are so surprised. They say it’s more of a history museum and that it isn’t what they expected at all. They usually love it because we are so unique.”

Students at Frazier

Photos provided

Students from an area school learn
what it was like to be part of a
battle in the early days of war.

To get that message out, the museum in January will launch a promotional effort that will include a slight name change as well as new live performance demonstrations, and a new brochure that better illustrates “what we’re all about,” Gelback said. A new website was launched Dec. 15 and more changes, including videos, are in store for it in the coming weeks, she said. The museum recently began offering MP3 headphones for audio tours and hopes to have a traveling exhibit ready by next October.
“We didn’t have the museum finished at the time we designed the first brochures, so we now have more to go on,” Gelback said. “It’s a process; it’s a new museum, and the Royal Armouries is just now letting us use their name more in our marketing efforts.”
The museum already offers eight “interpretations,” or demonstrations, a day that take place every half hour. Among the 40 total types of demonstrations is 16th century sword fighting. A new demo will be pollaxe fighting, coming soon.
On Jan. 21, the museum will play host to an unusual “Historical Ball,” featuring Civil War and 18 century-era re-enactors and guests dressed in period clothing.
Louisville’s museum is only one of four Royal Armouries exhibits in existence worldwide. Museum officials in Leeds searched for nearly a decade to find the perfect, centrally located U.S. city in which to situate a portion of their collection. All of the pieces behind glass are real; those not sealed behind glass are realistic replicas to help tell the story of their use.
The museum also houses such things as George Washington’s flintlock rifle, presented to him in 1791; Daniel Boone’s family Bible (on loan); Teddy Roosevelt’s rifle; Apache Indian Chief Geronimo’s bow and arrow; Josiah Bartlett’s sword; and exhibits on Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Civil War’s Clara Barton, and a “Great Names in American Gunsmaking” gallery. There is a unique display of master knifesmith Lloyd Hale’s beautiful artistry of hand-carved knives.
Gelback said the museum is pleased with attendance of just over 100,000 in 2005 after having surpassed the national average of 60,000-80,000. But with the new marketing efforts, the staff hopes to push well beyond that level as the public becomes more informed on its collection and displays. The staff already has set up traveling exhibits this past year at the Louisville Zoo and the Kentucky State Fair. The museum’s membership is more than 1,200, she said.

• For more information about the museum or its events, call (502) or visit: www.fraziermuseum.org.

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