- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

CODY, Wyo. (AP) - Ashley Lynn Hlebinsky has been appointed associate curator of the Cody Firearms Museum.

Hlebinsky, 25, takes the reins of her new position at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on Jan. 12.

The first female firearms curator in America replaces longtime firearms scholar and Cody Firearms Curator Warren Newman, who is retiring.

Newman will continue as curator emeritus and senior firearms specialist for the Center.

“I don’t consider myself a groundbreaker,” Hlebinsky said. “Women have always been a part of firearms history and are a growing population in today’s firearms community. And, trust me, I’m no Annie Oakley.”

That said, along the way she learned to shoot.

John Rumm, director of the curtorial division, is pleased to have Hlebinsky on board.

Rumm oversees all the curators at the Center.

He cites her enthusiasm, commitment, youthful exuberance and experience in social media as a good addition to the museum.

“She brought a tremendous amount of knowledge from the Smithsonian and other museums,” Rumm adds.

Now she’s the first female curator of a firearms museum.

Hlebinsky has worked full time at the Center for 18 months.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American history and museum studies, she’s excited about her new responsibilities.

She received her degrees from the University of Delaware, where she taught weapons history.

Research Assistant Curator Daniel Brumley is familiar with Hlebinsky’s work and looks forward to working for her.

“I think it will be a good thing,” he said.

Brumley, 57, has worked at the Cody Firearms Museum about five years.

“She’s knowledgable about firearms,” he said.

She didn’t grow up planning to become an expert in firearms.

“It was a circuitous route,” she said.

Her original plan was to become a doctor, which seemed like a natural progression after suffering medical problems as a child.

But she always was interested in history.

“No lightbulbs went off until I was 18,” she said.

A Civil War tour at Gettysburg set her on her career path.

“That’s interesting,” she thought.

She changed her major to history.

Back home in Pittsburgh, she was in awe of a Civil War musket she saw.

It was the first time she saw guns as more than artifacts.

“I was just hooked,” she said.

She realized they encompass a bigger story - adventures, people, owners and users.

She was drawn to the military side of guns.

“The guns kept the soldiers alive,” she said.

Research taught her about all areas of firearms.

Three years prior to her full-time position in Cody, Hlebinsky worked between the Cody Firearms Museum and the National Firearms Collection of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in D.C., where she worked for year.

“I ended up in Cody because it was an affiliate,” she said.

In Cody she has served as a Buffalo Bill Research fellow, publishing and presenting on the perception of firearms in popular culture. She also was a Cody Firearms Museum Kinnucan Arms chair grant recipient studying the role of women in the industry, an intern, firearms assistant, curatorial resident and assistant curator.

Hlebinsky has become a visible figure in the firearms industry as a firearms writer, historian and consultant.

“To diverse audiences, firearms mean different things, especially within their context,” she said.

“Firearms have always been part of American history and tell rich stories that can spark an interest in even the most uncommon places and individuals. The goal of the Cody Firearms Museum is to present those stories.”

Rumm believes her social media background will help promote the museum in other directions.

“That’s the direction we are going,” he said. “She’s good at what she does. She’s committed to what we at the center are all about.”

Newman, 85, said he has been grooming Hlebinsky to take over his position for three years.

“This lady is really remarkable and intelligent,” Newman said. “We’re fortunate to have her.”


Information from: The Cody Enterprise, https://www.codyenterprise.com

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