The Lancaster Long Rifle Exhibit

Landis Valley Village and Museum
Lancaster, PA

The exhibit The Lancaster Long Rifle-The Golden Age of an American Art Form marked the first time that the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum (LVVFM) mounted a gallery exhibit featuring the museum’s collection of long rifles as well as models from private collectors and other museums. The LVVFM interprets the history of Pennsylvania Germans and houses a robust collection of more than 100,000 objects. Though the Lancaster Long Rifle exhibit was heavily artifact based, it was also important that there be interpretive elements.

Along with highlighting the museum’s collection, the LVVFM sought to interpret the contributions of Pennsylvania German gunsmiths working in Lancaster County. Along with mounting an exhibit of Lancaster long rifles, some of which had never been exhibited to the public, the museum staff felt it was important that this project contribute to the scholarship of the subject. Staff consulted with leading long-rifle experts to identify the finest examples of Lancaster-made pieces, as well as to write and produce a companion exhibit catalogue. Overall, staff identified 71 of the finest examples of Lancaster-made long rifles, as well as examples of pistols, gunsmithing tools, powder horns, game bags, and other objects.

During the development of the exhibit and the exhibit catalogue, museum staff conducted primary research on the objects and on local gunsmiths. As it was uncovered, new information was incorporated into the exhibit and into the catalogue which has contributed to the scholarship of the subject. During the course of the exhibit the museum sponsored weekly gunsmithing demonstrations in the museum’s Gun Shop exhibit building; offered gunsmithing classes; sponsored a major public weekend program entitled “Lock Stock and Barrel,” which included scholarly talks, and gunsmithing demonstrations.

Museum staff worked closely with volunteer guest curators, private lenders, and contracted professionals to produce a professional exhibit with a companion catalogue and supplemental interpretive programs. Through this, the museum established closer contacts with scholars, collectors, and local funders to foster future exhibit collaborations.