While traveling around Northern Alabama, we stopped in at the Berman Museum of World History in Anniston and were blown away.
There are a few publicly accessible gun collections on display around the country that are truly exceptional. The National Firearms Museum at Fairfax, Virginia, the Cody, Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, the Frazier in Louisville. But one that often gets missed is the Berman.
In 1992, Farley and Germaine Berman began loaning their extensive personal art collection built over a lifetime to the city of Anniston. The two were made for each other it seems — Farley was an Army colonel who worked in military intelligence during World War II while Germaine was in French intelligence.
“I was spying on her, and she was spying on me,” Farley once said. After marrying and returning to the states, the two traveled extensively, reportedly filling up four passports. In 1999, after their death, the 6,000-piece collection was bequeathed to the city, who now has it on display in a two-story complex.
Mr. Berman seemed to have a great interest in guns that would be classified today as “Any Other Weapon” — cane guns, pipe guns, pens that really are mightier than the sword, a car’s gear shift knob that secreted a pistol, belt buckles that hold lethal hardware. If you can think of it, the museum probably has one or six on hand.
The museum is packed with other artifacts as well, including Imperial Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II’s WKC hunting sword, and Hitler’s silver tea service (including grape scissors; what a swanky little madman). Edged weapons and Japanese armor mingle with embellished Gurkha fighting knives and Arabic jezails. On exhibit is the famed Persian Scimitar of Abbas I, encrusted with 1,295 diamonds, 50 karats of rubies, a 10-carat emerald in the hilt and 3 pounds of gold.
On the second floor rest dedicated exhibits to both World Wars including crew-served weapons (ever seen a German Granatwerfer 36 mortar? Want to? Head to the Berman!) as well as small arms. The museum has a rare West Gun, one of only two known to exist today.
Arranged by country, the displays are comprehensive and stand ready to school any history buff or arms collector.
Admission to the Berman is a whopping $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 4-17. Kids 3 and under are free. The museum is open 360 days per year, closed on major holidays.