BERRYVILLE, Ark. — The Saunders Museum in Berryville, Arkansas holds thousands of treasures acquired by traveler, marksman and collector Charles Burton Saunders. Saunders willed the money to build the museum to the city of Berryville before he died in 1952.
The Saunders Museum opened in 1956. Saunders also willed his home to Berryville, and it now serves as its City Hall.
Joan Lasseter is the Curator for the Saunders Museum. She said while Saunders’ large and varied gun collection is on display, there’s so much more to see such as furniture, china, and Native American artifacts.
“We’ve had different gentlemen that have come in and said their wife was sitting in the car because she didn’t want to come into the gun museum, but when they come in and we start telling them about it and we start walking through, they’ll say, ‘can I go to the car and get my wife?’ and they’ll go to the car and bring her in because it’s so much more than a gun museum,” said Lasseter.
She shared the story of one of the museum’s most eye-catching items: a hand-woven tent Saunders won from a Sheik.
Another feature of the museum is Saunders’ collection of teak wood furniture that is more than 450 years old.
“And it’s so amazing they had to do it all by hand, you know, you don’t have a lathe that you can run an arm of a chair through and get another one just like it,” Lasseter said. She explained Saunders got the table from a friend of his whose wife did not like it because it had dragons on it.
Even though guns aren’t the only thing on display, firearms are a big part of the collection. There are 893 handguns at the Saunders Museum.
Lasseter explained why so many of the guns are Colt guns. “Mr. Saunders, he shot for the Colt company and any time the Colt company would come out with a new gun they would send it to him to get his opinion of it on how they could improve it or anything that needed to be done and then he would get to keep the gun.”
“In fact, back in the early 80s, the Colt company contacted the City of Berryville and tried to purchase our Colt collection because we had a better group of the earlier ones,” she said.
The Saunders Museum opens on April 15 and closes the first week in November for the season. Hours are Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but no one is let in after 4:00 p.m. because it takes at least an hour to go through.
Everyone gets a mini-tour when they arrive and can choose to spend the rest of their time alone or with a guide. The museum also welcomes groups and offers a discount if a group is larger than ten people.