Autry may lose state parks grant over Southwest Museum

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/04/entertainment/la-et-autry-20110604

Battles over ownership and cultural artifacts are not limited to the international sphere but are rife in local politics.  Recent struggles between the Autry National Center and the community of Mount Washington, the Los Angeles neighborhood home to the troubled Southwest Museum.  The Lummis estate, home to the extensive collection of Native American cultural artifacts, was severely damaged in earthquakes and its iconic tower needs serious renovations to meet California seismic requirements.  In 2002 the Southwest Museum controversially merged with the Autry National Center.  Mount Washington residents quickly formed into coalitions to protect the Southwest and ensure that the collection did not move to the Autry National Center’s site in Griffith Park.

Static collections, created often by whimsical and exacting men and women, struggle to maintain the visions of their creators while staying relevant in a modern environment.  Other examples I can think of are the Barnes Collection, the Norton Simon, and the Isabella Stewart Garner Collection.  Oftentimes these museums are located in over-cramped and impractical spaces designed for the smaller visitorship of yesteryear.

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About projectpatrimonio

Helena Boyden Lamb, born 1985 in New York, has studied and worked in Politics, Heritage Ethics and Politics, and Opera Singing. Most recently, she is working in Brussels where she started in a European Think Tank and is now the Executive Office of a NGO which facilitates Youth Politics across the EU. She has a Bachelor with Honors from Stanford University, California in Classics: Politics and Heritage and a Masters with Honors from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK in European Identity. She has conducted academic or independent grant-funded research in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Albania. She was, previously, an archaeologist and an opera singer. Cynthia Querio is a Museum Educator currently living and working in Los Angeles. She is interested in heritage and identity politics and the role of museum education departments in the trajectory of this debate. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a 9 month graduate internship at the Getty Villa's education department and has continued to work in many museums in Los Angeles including LACMA and the Autry National Center. Her academic background is in the Classics, which was her major at Stanford University and which she continued to pursue with a Masters in the History of Classical Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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3 Responses to Autry may lose state parks grant over Southwest Museum

  1. Martha Benedict says:

    “Oftentimes these museums are located in over-cramped and impractical spaces designed for the smaller visitorship of yesteryear.” In an analysis by Autry’s own architect, the Southwest was judged to be viable with a manageable expenditure for modernization. It is a canard of the Autry to characterize it otherwise, because certain key Autry board members don’t wish to be bothered with the historic landmark, the first museum of Los Angeles. Autry already stabilized the earthquake problems with FEMA money and other grants a few years ago. Autry always encourages words like “troubled” to be used with the Southwest. The trouble is with the Autry.

    • Thanks for the clarification. I have visited the site and think it’s a beautiful and a seminal piece of Los Angeles history. In addition, the Mount Washington neighborhood deserves to have a cultural center which unites the community and brings visitors to patronize its businesses. I believe one of the key issues with maintaining the museum in that location is making the site accessible to larger volumes of visitors. In addition, the house’s location high on a hill make the steep and narrow driveway a fire safety hazard. These are definitely solvable problems which are shared with other house museums located in residential areas which were not designed to accommodate many visitors. I sincerely hope that the Autry and the Southwest coalition can come to a mutually favorable agreement which will allow for the future health of the collection as well as both museums.

      • Martha Benedict says:

        “I sincerely hope that the Autry and the Southwest coalition can come to a mutually favorable agreement which will allow for the future health of the collection as well as both museums.” Yes I do too! This is not a “house” museum, incidentally. Perhaps you’re remembering the Lummis home nearby. The Southwest is a substantial building with a wonderful elevator from the street level, and sizeable parking area (that can be expanded) at the upper level where the museum proper is sited. A Gold Line Train station is steps away from the elevator entrance, so there is public transportation that serves it well. At the time of the merger in 2003, the museum was generating 38% of its costs, fine for a museum. The Autry is only managing 11%.

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