The Autry National Center last year abandoned a $175 million plan to expand its Griffith Park museum after the city demanded that the Autry commit to operate its Southwest Museum in Mount Washington as an independent institution. On Wednesday, the Autry found a way to get around the city’s demands by announcing it would buy an industrial building in Burbank for storage and offices, freeing up space in its existing Griffith Park location for more galleries and exhibition halls. The new Burbank facility will also store the giant collection of Native American artifacts now housed at the Southwest Museum, which has been virtually closed to the public since the beginning of the year. What happens to the landmark Southwest Museum? The Autry, at the end of a press release, offers this information:
“The Autry is currently seeking partnerships with educational, cultural, or civic organizations to develop future programs suitable to the Southwest Museum site.”
That falls far short of the full-fledged museum that many groups, residents and Councilman Jose Huizar – had been demanding.
Nicole Possert with the Friends of the Southwest Museum claims Autry officials continue to ignore the commitments they made to maintain the Mount Washington center as an independent museum under the terms of a 2003 merger agreement.
“It appears Autry is willing to invest in and transform an industrial building in Burbank but NOT willing to follow their own legal contract to operate an independent Southwest Museum,” said Possert, whose group offered up a plan to store and display the Southwest’s artifacts within its historic buildings. “As the first museum in Los Angeles, that would be a prudent investment in their upcoming new ambitious capital campaign.”
Update: Councilman Huizar issued a statement regarding the Autry’s decision:
“My focus continues to be on the Southwest Museum. And right now the Southwest Museum is being used as little more than a storage facility for many of the artifacts. I welcome any action that can help us get the Southwest Museum in a position to be what it was intended to be: a fully accredited museum. The purchase of the storage facility does not get us there. However, in discussions that I have had with the Autry, I am an encouraged that they are agreeing with me to find a partner for the Southwest Museum. I am committed to making sure that whoever that partner might be, the primary goal is the same: to help restore the Southwest Museum, the city’s first museum, to its rightful place as a Los Angeles cultural, artistic and historical jewel.”
Photo from Friends of the Southwest Museum