17. Kentucky Military History Museum, Frankfort, KY ±1,000 guns, ±80 on display (8%). Established in 1974

Kentucky Military History Museum Exterior
Kentucky Military History Museum Case


Located in the former State Arsenal, an imposing Gothic Style building of 1850, the Kentucky Military History Museum is part of the Kentucky Historical Society. The KMHM is a general demographic museum arranged around ten American wars from 1815 onward (excluding the American Indian Wars) highlighting stories of nine individuals. The eighty firearms on display annotate the wars and range from small arms to wheeled and light machine guns. The core strength of the museum is the Automatic Weapons Collection of heavy, general purpose and light machineguns, assault and submachine guns, as well as bazookas. It will form a new exhibit in 2017, potentially being the best public display of machineguns in America.

The Automatic Weapons Collection was assembled by Col. George Chinn, soldier, weapons designer, administrator and author of the five-volume book The Machine Gun. Chinn donated his prototype designs and personal collection. More importantly for Kentucky, he brokered the entire collection of machineguns disbanded by the Smithsonian Museum, after the Smithsonian’s National Armed Forces Museum project was cancelled in 1965.

The collection currently on exhibit includes: a 1864 24-barrel Billinghurst-Requa Volley Gun, a 1903 Springfield Rifle fitted with the Pedersen Device and an 1864 Triplett & Scott Carbine. In storage, the Automatic Weapons Collection includes many versions of the ‘Tommy Gun’, designed by Kentucky native, General J.T. Thompson. The Smithsonian ‘trove’ of hundreds of machineguns also includes the first known prototype of the Bazooka. The regional ATF donates historic firearms, including home-made ‘Zip Guns’, and the Benjamin Mills Collection was recently donated.

The online presence is surprisingly complete but it is counterintuitive and difficult to navigate. Buried in the site is the Object Catalog for the Kentucky Historical Society, which has many well-cataloged firearms but is navigated with poorly structured keywords, making it difficult to browse or find specific items. The Curator’s Corner has a good video of the collection.

http://www.history.ky.gov/military/ (Curator’s Corner: “The Weapons Collection with Bill Bright”)