Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The NRA Responds to Allegations That They Bugged Me

So just before Memorial Day weekend, I found an e-mail from Philip Schreier, Senior Curator at the National Firearms Museum. He was responding to my cranky blog entry about some of the shortcomings of the display space, " The NRA's National Firearms Museum Bugs Me."

I wasn't particularly surprised that someone from the NRA found my entry, any moreso than, say, someone from Wrigley's hitting my entry warning about Eclipse mints or employees of the "World Reserve Monetary Exchange" seeing my entry on the folly of buying uncut currency sheets from them. It kind of comes with the territory, and what's simply vanity searching for any given person is part of reputation management and due diligence for an organization.

I was a little surprised by the length and thoroughness of the response, which addresses my complaints by explaining the problems of trying to fit a lot of guns into a relatively small space (and really, who among us hasn't faced that problem at one time or another?). So I will include Mr. Schreier's entire response below, without commentary:
Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 17:12:16 -0400
From: "Schreier, Philip"
To: joe@joelogon.com
Subject: National Firearms Museum

Dear Joe:

Thanks for visiting the NFM here in Fairfax. I read your blog about your
visit and thought I would try and provide you with some background on our
design process.

First off, you have some very valid points.

The building we are housed in was meant to be an office building. Our
museum was placed in an area formerly the home to our IT people. In an
ideal situation we would have had 15' ceilings and another 20,000 square
feet of display space. In other words we had to make do with what we had.
The result is somewhat cramped and the lighting isn't ideal.

We did hire a lighting designer from the Pratt Institute of NYC to do the
lighting. He did a remarkable job. Here is the deal. The guns and the
objects are quite visible and clear. Yes there are a few areas where
light does reflect from other areas and causes some viewing problems,
however, for the most part it is clear. Now that is not to say it is a
photographer's dream either. There is a HUGE difference from you looking
at an exhibit and you trying to take a picture of one. Glass is glass and
it is miserable to shoot around under ANY circumstances.

You mentioned the USMC Museum in Quantico. GREAT PLACE. Lots of room,
high ceilings, dark walls = -0- reflective surfaces. They had that luxury
that we only wish we had.

The "display bunker" at the beginning of the museum is a facade of a
medieval castle, with what were called "archers loops" or protected areas
where the archers could fire at the enemy. We did "hide" the guns here
for a reason. 90% of the visitors aged 16 - 40 want to see modern black
rifles and plastic guns. The old stuff, comes off as antique and stuffy.
We put it behind tight windows because people like to look into windows
and it is a huge draw to the artifacts. It is a great study in human
nature. People literally crowd around to "peek" inside. The whole gun is
visible and unobstructed in each instance, however, again it is not
conducive to an ideal photograph. From that point of view I can
understand your frustration, but please remember, our first objective is
to inform the public, providing "sets" for photographers is secondary.

As for the information design aspect. I agree. I hate it as well. Any
ideas? Happy to hear them. In the first part of the museum we have lots
of space and few guns. Easier to place text. Later we have huge amounts
of guns and no space to display text. If we had a text card next to each
gun it would be a huge eyesore. Some happy medium has to be struck, we
just haven't found it yet.

Thanks for the tip on the numbers lock button, I will have to see if it
can be disabled or not.

Any other problems, concerns or otherwise, please feel free to ask. On
your next visit I would be happy to take you on a personal tour and show
you what went into the design elements.

Until then,

I remain Sincerely,

Philip Schreier
Senior Curator
National Firearms Museum
National Rifle Association
I don't really have anything further to add, although his e-mail did remind me that I never posted the pics from my trip to the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico a few months ago. (And I never finished annotating my Hirshhorn pics from before that...)

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