Letters to the LA Times editor on the SW Museum's future
In her otherwise excellent piece on efforts to preserve the
Southwest Museum's collection ("Working Out the Bugs," Jan. 25),
Suzanne Muchnic reported that the Friends of the Southwest Museum
Coalition does not oppose the Autry National Center's conservation
efforts and implied that the group is concerned only with
continuance of the Southwest as a "living museum."
The story omitted key causes of concern for the coalition, a group
of more than 55 organizations (local, state and national)
representing hundreds of thousands of concerned people.
The coalition has sought and has yet to receive from the Autry a
clearly articulated vision and commitment to the future of the
Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe, one that includes preservation
of the facility as a "living museum," and a display of at least a
significant representation of the diverse holdings.
The museum is the embodiment of author, historian and ethnographer
Charles Fletcher Lummis' life's work in shaping the American West.
It represents the diversity and complexity of the histories of the
Native American and Californio cultures, and the role of the Arroyo
Seco and the city in creating the "American West."
We ask that the Autry recognize that the nationally significant
building is itself the largest piece of the Southwest Museum
collection and for assurance that Los Angeles' oldest museum will
continue to be a showcase for the legacy of American West cultures
as envisioned by Lummis.
Eliot Sekuler is a spokesman for Friends of the Southwest Museum
The Southwest Museum may seem outdated, but to those who understand
our role in history it is a tangible symbol of the idealism that
made us the last outpost of Western expansion, which as the most
diverse city in the world should always be part of Los Angeles'
understanding of itself.
Maybe the historic and architecturally significant Southwest Museum
isn't the best place for storage of artifacts by today's
conservation standards, but that's no reason to denigrate it
as "hopelessly antiquated." Many museums, such as the Smithsonian,
have off-site storage in buildings with appropriate environmental
controls but continue to attract the public by creating a museum
experience at their historic buildings.
It's the combination of experiencing a museum exhibition in an
authentic (historic) location that attracts visitors to the world's
great museums. Los Angeles deserves the same our best hope is with
the city's original museum. It's a no-brainer!