Using the Museum’s material culture object collection, works of art, and Glenn Shirley Collection in the DRC, and strategic loans, this exhibition will examine the often-thin line separating the outlaw from the lawman, i.e. the lawless from the law-enforcing in the American West. In fact, many outlaws became lawmen and vice versa. Firearms, badges, bank and railroad ephemera, incarceration tools, photographs, and archives will be used, including Martin E. Trejo’s Texas Ranger badges, Bill Tilghman’s Sharps rifle, a clutch purse allegedly belonging to Bonnie Parker, and transcripts from the Osage murder trials used by author David Graham for his book, Killers of the Flower Moon, and by Martin Scorcese for his forthcoming film by the same title. (The curator of this exhibition and DRC staff consulted with Scorcese’s team on the making of this film).
Moreover, the lines have been further blurred by popular culture which mutated a man on horseback doing cow-work into a pistol-packing outlaw or lawman. Men (and women) with firearms doing good or bad in the American West, is greatly exaggerated—and heroicized and mythologized–in popular culture. This exhibition will examine how this confusion evolved—or didn’t—in the Western states and especially in popular culture. This exhibition will allow the Museum to educate visitors of all ages and all demographics about the truth of outlaws and lawmen in the American West.