Archived: True in 2006, Still True Today: Time for L.A. to Save the Southwest Museum

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Eastern Group Publication published the following editorial in 2006, yet today the future of the Southwest Museum is still in question.

We fail to understand why the Autry Museum of the American West continues its efforts to build on to its Griffith Park facility when the cost of the additions will probably cost three times what the renovations to the Southwest Museum would cost, while at the same time preserving the city’s oldest museum in the Arroyo Seco.

In these times of scarce funds and the need for more open space, the expansion of Autry’s footprint in Griffith Park flies in the face of what is best for Los Angeles residents. The Autry, and Los Angeles city officials who support them, need to reconsider their priorities.

Several decades ago there were efforts to transfer the Southwest Museum’s artifacts and exhibits to another museum.

At that time, the excuse for the removal of the museum’s possessions was that the museum had been severely damaged by an earthquake and it would cost $25 million for repairs, which the museum did not have. Here we go again.

It always amazes us how willing the city of Los Angeles is to destroy history and cultural institutions to suit powerful entities’ ideas of not only what is historically appropriate in their eyes, but also to satisfy their desires to dictate where the appropriate locations are for displaying the community’s rich heritage and culture to the rest of the world. And as we have painfully come to realize, the so-called appropriate spots are rarely in working-class neighborhoods or in our ethnic communities.

Although they don’t say it outright, they believe the monied-crowd, the “true” patrons of the arts are unwilling, perhaps a little afraid, to venture into these communities that are for the most part foreign to their cultural sensibilities, or where they want to spend their leisure time and dollars.

Northeast Los Angeles has an assortment of historic locations, among them Heritage Square and the Lummis Adobe, and of course, the historically significant and irreplaceable Southwest Museum.

But it seems the City of Los Angeles is willing to break up this complex of culture and history rather than contribute to and legislate that the Southwest Museum be preserved and improved, and its collections of Native American artwork and artifacts be kept intact at the museum site atop Mt. Washington.

City officials, so willing to fork over taxpayer revenue to help private for-profit development all over the city, should pony up the funds needed to insure future generations of Angelenos will have the opportunity to study the history of the American Indians at the Southwest Museum, a location just as much a city icon as the Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign.

Originally published in Eastern Group Publication’s August 3, 2006 edition.

Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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4 Comments

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  4. Scott Johnson on

    Bravo!! on your editorial.

    Citizens in CD 14 and in Los Angeles need to stand up tp protect their neighborhood’s cultural and natural icons from a poltical machine in City Hall that values self-preservation above community preservation.

    The battle to save the Southwest Museum along with protecting CD 14 open space and restoring natural wonders such as the Hazard Park Wetlands are just some endevors that our political community should prioritize.

    But instead, they seek to sell off our local heritage for short term political capital while the community is left with the scars on its idenity that will take generations to heal.

    Scott Johnson
    “Friends of Henry T. Hazard Park and Community”

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