It’s true that you never go see the sites in your own hometown. That is, until an out-of-town guest arrives. A visit from my husband’s teenage cousin was just the thing to get me to visit a new feather in Louisville’s tourism cap – the Frazier Historical Arms Museum. The Frazier Museum tells a complete story about arms in America, beginning in England hundreds of years before the colonies were firmly established in the New World and ending in modern America. This is a thoughtful, respectful preservation of the impact of these historical weapons on US and British history.
Located in downtown Louisville on Main Street, the Frazier Museum opened to the public in May of 2004. The Museum, in collaboration with Britain’s Royal Armouries, boasts a seriously impressive collection of arms, armor, and other historical information. The collection bears pieces from both North America and Britain. You’ll find everything from ancient ornate carved swords to famous weapons like General Custer’s ivory-handled Colt pistols.
But this place isn’t just for gun aficionados or war veterans. The information in the Frazier Museum is presented in many ways, and can be enjoyed by folks of all ages. There are, of course, the usual low-lit display cases full of antique guns and knives with plaques and captions to explain their histories. There are also state-of-the-art multimedia displays and video stations where patrons can sit and watch short video demonstrations of battle tactics, weapons handling, archaeological discoveries, and various re-enactments. These stations also feature closed captions for the deaf and hearing impaired. There are interactive stations where, for example, you can learn about family hearldry and take a quiz on your knowledge.
We began our afternoon at the museum at a demonstration. One of the most unique features of the Frazier are the historic interpretations. Professional actors and actresses perform demonstrations and historically accurate interpretations on a daily basis. Some days you can see demonstrations of swordplay. We were able to see an actor named Tony perform as the Towton Bowman of 1461, a Lancastrian archer who tells of his part in the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil during the War of the Roses. He gave a moving interpretation of what it was like to be on the losing side of the war. There are many other performances including an Agincourt archer, Annie Oakley, soldiers from the English Civil Wars, and Joan of Arc. After the 15-20 minute presentation, the audience is encouraged to ask questions and handle the weaponry.
The British searched for many years to find an adequate home for their weapons collection, but is wasn’t until they learned of the Frazier Museum proposal that it was decided to house the collection here. By keeping the two pieces of weaponry history – British and American – together as the Frazier Museum does, patrons are able to seamlessly follow the history of weapons from the British Isles to the new colonies of America. Docents suggest you begin your tour with the English collections and work your way through history to the American collections so that you may easily understand how one influenced the other. The way the museum is set up, you can’t help but see how history and culture worked in conjunction with weapons to create all sorts of events and situations in the world.
The American section of the museum pays homage to the impact of weapons on our history. See how guns were influential in settling the west, how guns became mass-produced, watch a video on the innovations of guns, and see actual historical weapons such as Theodore Roosevelt’s “Big Stick.” There is a section that discusses the effect of guns on the Native American populations of North America, which I found simultaneously sad and intriguing. An interesting display on gunplay as entertainment, including a short video on Hollywood’s interpretations of the cowboy myth, is also very informative.
Besides the daily attractions, the museum features other activities such as the Lunchtime Lecture series, a free noon lecture on various subjects. You can also rent out the facilities for private parties, and there are various special events and lectures happening all the time.
The museum’s website thoroughly covers information you might need if you want to visit, including hours, cost, and schedules of events. The museum is handicap accessible, which we tested out with my father-in-law who is disabled and uses crutches to get around. There is also adequate parking nearby, a gift shop, The Castle at The Frazier, and a cafÃ?Â©.
Not being much of a weapons person myself, I wasn’t too sure how I would enjoy the Frazier Museum. Although I love museums in general, weapons just aren’t really my bag. I had heard marvelous things about this one, so I kept an open mind. The Frazier did not disappoint. You could easily spend all day at the museum, reading and looking and listening – there is SO much to see and do. I recommend you be sure to use the crazy crayons to make a colorful rubbing on your way out, watch the video on the third floor corner to find out exactly how and why Queen Elizabeth’s British fleet defeated the Spanish Armada, don’t miss the Wall of Knives, and catch a demonstration or two, if you can.
$7.00 Seniors (60+)
$6.00 Children under 14
$6.00 Students with I.D.
FREE Children under 5
Hours of Operation
Open throughout the year, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.
Monday – Saturday: 9.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M.
Sunday: Noon to 5.00 P.M.
Last admission 4 P.M.
829 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202-2619
(502) 412-2280 or toll-free (866) 886-7103