I think we can all agree that for better or worse, outside of gunsmithing colleges there has been a poor representation of the study of firearms within any university certainly in the United States, possibly in the world as well. Again I say this emphasizing “for Better or Worse”, meaning a legitimate study of anything related to small arms as a single point of research and emphasis doesn’t quite exist. But at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, this is starting to change. Professor Benjamin Nicholson is an architecture expert by trade and has taught at the school for a number of years. But one of his initiatives at the school is to have an academic class that discusses firearms in a number of ways. Some of these involve design, history, cultural impact, looking at mass shootings, and many more topics. The class gets to examine the firearms in the art collection at the school, visit with local forensics teams at the Chicago Police Department, and are involved. We mentioned some of Professor Nicholson’s work while covering the Cody Firearms Symposium earlier this year–
Professor Nicholson’s presentation on teaching firearms design to architecture students was by far the most fascinating presentation given on the first day in my opinion. Myself coming from academia I’ve always found mentioning small arms very restrictive in the current environment, but Ben goes ahead and somehow manages to give semester-length classes about firearms design and history at the University level while working at the Art Institute of Chicago and separately at Cornell.
As a result of that initial symposium, Professor Nicholson wanted me to come to visit his class in Chicago and give a small talk about firearms in the United States. I covered some topics that were somewhat outside of his curriculum such as the development of the AR15 and why it has become so popular in the United States (he focuses mostly on revolver development as a case study), using firearms in combat, the current commercial market, and my own research into small arms out of the MENA and Central Asian regions.
I would highly recommend that any TFB reader who is offered a similar chance to speak about their passions and that of small arms in a neutral position, to absolutely take it. This isn’t about political advocacy or some sort of agenda. This is about presenting an entire genre that is incredibly active and vibrant to a portion of the population that might only be exposed to that same field in only one light. Benjamin Nicholson was actually featured on a TFB TV special, listed here on Youtube–