Route 66 News

National Trust shepherds preservation plan for Southwest Museum

Southwest Museum, Los Angeles

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has added the century-old Southwest Museum of the American Indian as a “national treasure” and is devising a plan for its future, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s what the newspaper found out:

Over the next 18 months, the Washington, D.C.-based National Trust will gather ideas and build a consensus about how the site should be used. It will do an economic study to determine which options would be financially viable, then lay groundwork for raising the money needed to ensure the Southwest’s future. […]

They could include reviving the fully functioning museum of Native American art and culture that the Southwest was from 1914 to 2006 or a radically different approach that might mix exhibitions with other cultural, educational or even commercial uses.

The museum is owned by the Autry National Center. It took over ownership of the financially troubled Southwest Museum about a decade ago, but said it lacks the money to run both it and the Southwest. As a result, hours of the Southwest Museum were cut. Underuse of the Southwest led to protests from those who lived nearby and and Native American advocates, and thus helped derail a planned expansion at the Autry.

One thing that will have to happen is a renovation of the Southwest Museum. Native American artifacts once were endangered because of a leaky roof before the Autry moved them for safekeeping. The Autry’s president estimates it will costs between $26 million and $41 million to fix the Southwest.

Charles Fletcher Lummis, who created the Southwest Society, opened the Southwest Museum in downtown Los Angeles in 1907, then moved it to its current location at Mount Washington in 1914.

(Image of the Southwest Museum by Kelly via Flickr)


3 thoughts on “National Trust shepherds preservation plan for Southwest Museum

  1. Jim Farber

    Since my involvement with the Autry has ended I don’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak. I would just point out that had the Autry not preserved the more than 100,000 items in the Southwest collection odds are they would have been sold off and probably no longer in Los Angeles at all. I love the history and architecture of the SW Museum but if the collection had been dispersed the fate of building would probably have been even less certain. This new step may, or may not, solve the issue.

  2. Scott Piotrowski

    While I agree with Jim above regarding the collection, it is pretty evident from the way in which events have transpired that the Autry National Center had its sights only on the collection from the beginning. After all, the collection is the largest such collection outside of the Smithsonian. It alone is worth well more than the Autry National Center. I’ll add that Mr. Farber himself – while speaking on behalf of the Autry in Victorville in 2012 – stated “The Autry is not in the business of preserving buildings” when specifically questioned regarding the status of the Southwest Museum building. Again, this is a true statement, but it also signals the intent of the Autry.

    I have been hopeful that some positive news would come from Mount Washington, Downtown Los Angeles, and Griffith Park on this issue. It has been a long time in coming. I only hope that it is just the first of many positive steps regarding Los Angeles’ first museum and a Route 66 icon.

  3. Pingback: Southwest Museum's possible future laid out in report - Route 66 News

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