Liquor magnate Owsley Brown Frazier is trying to bring history to life through its firepower.
Frazier, a philanthropist and retired chairman of Brown-Forman Corp., has founded a museum featuring an arsenal of weapons spanning the Middle Ages to the early 1900s.
There's Theodore Roosevelt's Holland & Holland hunting rifle, the famous "Big Stick" he carried on an African expedition. There's also a flintlock rifle that belonged to George Washington.
Gen. George Armstrong Custer's ivory-handled Colt revolvers are also housed in the museum, which opened to the public in May. So is a bow that belonged to Apache Chief Geronimo and a Winchester rifle presented to "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
Daniel Boone's family Bible is there, along with crude swords and spears dating to the 11th century. One notable display of armor belonged to Sir Philip Sidney, an Elizabethan poet and soldier who died from battle wounds against the Spanish in 1586.
For Frazier, the $32 million museum that bears his name combines two passions -- supporting education and collecting historical arms. And he says the Frazier Historical Arms Museum does not glorify war.
"We believe that in order to understand history, you have to understand the history of conflict," he said. "And if you understand the impact of war and strife on people's lives and society, you might just leave our museum with a greater appreciation for peace."
Frazier also said he wants the museum to "bring history to life," triggering an interest among young visitors.
The ancient weapons are from the Royal Armouries, Britain's national repository for arms and armor. The Royal Armouries chose the Frazier for its first permanent U.S. location to showcase part of its collection. About 300 artifacts are displayed on the Frazier museum's third floor and document British martial history from 1066 to the early 1900s.
The museum, with its 100,000 square feet of space, is a walking tour of human conflict.
Life-size tableaux depict famous battles -- from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to the Battle of Rorke's Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. Audiovisual and multimedia displays describe the battles and the times in which they were fought.
Live, costumed interpreters cross swords in a tournament ring, then explain to visitors how the weapons were made and used. The museum's first two floors feature permanent displays of American artifacts from colonial times to the early 1900s.
Museum curator Walter Karcheski Jr.'s favorites among the artifacts include a 16th-century matchlock target rifle, because of its "physical grace and beauty." He also mentioned Roosevelt's hunting rifle and a French musket from the American Revolution.
"It's one of those rare historical icons that tells the story of conflict, bravery and the burning desire for individual freedom," Karcheski said of the musket.
Washington's rifle is believed to have been presented as a gift to him at his Mount Vernon estate in 1791. The gun has an iron barrel, maple stock and brass side plates and trigger guard.
Other exhibits chronicle the nation's western expansion.
From the Armouries' collection, Karcheski singled out the armor of Sidney, the English poet-warrior. He said it reflected "the relationship of armor and the decorative arts."
The museum, Karcheski said, is dedicated to the "scope and grandeur of the historical story."