The space inside the newly updated J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum was as bright as Times Square on Monday, March 13, for the open house from 1-6 p.m.
The first 250 visitors received sunglasses with the museum’s name on them to highlight the bright lights and shiny flooring.
The museum was closed 19 weeks for the renovations, which included replacing every one of the 948 lights and 53-year-old wiring.
“You can see the museum in a whole new light, pun intended,” Museum Executive Director Wayne McCombs said. “All 11,000 guns and 50,000 other items like two golden eagles and a buffalo head.”
It’s been a labor of love.
“It was a 2-1/2-year deal by the time he found the grant until the reopening. We received a grant from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Then we were caught up in the supply chain and inflation stuff, which required an additional allocation of time and appropriation from the Oklahoma Legislature to finish the project,” said McCombs.
State Rep. Mark Lepak and State Sen. Marty Quinn helped McCombs attain the additional funding.
“I am so appreciative of their help in getting the funds we needed to complete the work,” said McCombs.
Sending would-be visitors away during the process was a tough call.
“It’s good to hear children say, ‘Daddy, I’ve missed this’ or ‘Wow, daddy look at this’ again,” said McCombs.
The first visitors through the doors on Monday were from China.
“We have visitors from all over the world and the U.S. In the mid-’50s, they four-laned Route 66, also Lynn Riggs Boulevard. Claremore has two miles of the original Route 66 built in 1926. Route 66 will celebrate its 100th anniversary in November 2026,” he said.
The museums in Claremore cross-promote.
“We work with the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, Totem Pole, and Claremore Museum of History. When visitors are leaving, we ask if they’ve been to one of the others,” he said.
One of the visitors, Visit Claremore Director Tanya Andrews, said the lighting adds a fresh look to the museum.
“The light is bright and definitely makes it shine. It needed to be improved. The investment will sustain the museum for years to come. It’s a huge icon in Northeast Oklahoma,” said Andrews.
Claremore is fortunate to have such great attractions as the J.M. Davis Museum, and businesses, restaurants and shops on Route 66, she said.
“It’s such a great draw for visitors from all over the world,” said Andrews.
Many visitors brought children to see the museum, including Jennie Sullins, with two grandchildren and a niece; Owyn Spencer, 7, Ellie Correll, 3, and Zayna McCaslin, 5. She enjoys taking the children to museums and was spending spring break doing different activities.
“I like the guns, the handguns, shotguns, rifles and Magnums,” said Owyn.
A couple from Owasso brought their son visiting from Victoria, Texas.
Jolene and Jerry Buchanan enjoy all the history.
“I appreciate someone taking the time to write how each gun was used,” she said.
Her husband is impressed with the sheer volume of the museum.
“I like the stories about the outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde, since they’re infamous,” he said.
Two other visitors had small booklets with them.
Jeff Brady and son Ben, 11, have been to the museum several times. They had Route 66 Passports.
“We get them stamped at all the places we visit and get a collector coin. The newest coin is Blue Whale. We started with the red book and found the yellow one, so we’re doing both,” he said.
Ben said he liked all the guns, especially the gun-knife combo.
“Every time we come here we find new favorites, like some of the pistols today,” said Jeff.
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