Protesters seek greater payoff from public investment in Southwest Museum

Protestors outside Southwest Museum/Martha Benedict

Demonstrators gathered outside the Southwest Museum today to protest the museum’s one-day a week schedule after more than $10 million in public funds were spent on repairing the Mt. Washington landmark.

Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition claimed that the Southwest Museum’s owner, the Autry National Center, has “stiffed taxpayers” while offering “very little in return for their generous investment,” according to a coalition statement. The Southwest Museum recently held its first exhibit in seven years but the show is open to the public for only six hours a week.

The funds in question were primarily from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for structural repairs to the museum and the handling and storage of its large collection of Native American artifacts.

“After spending approximately $10.5 million of our tax money, the Autry is only giving taxpayers a one-day-a-week exhibit at the Southwest Museum,” said Nicole Possert,* coalition spokesperson, in a statement. “That’s not good enough. Taxpayers should be in revolt over how the Autry has disrespected them, and they should let our city, state and federal elected officials know they expect more from the Autry.”

The Autry, which took control of the Southwest Museum a decade ago, defended its management and efforts to restore the century-old museum with a combination of public and private funding .

“With the merger of the Autry with the Southwest Museum, our top priority has been to properly care for and maintain the collection after decades of neglect with the goal of making the collection accessible for research, exhibits, and programs in Los Angeles for decades to come,” said W. Richard West Jr., President and CEO of the Autry National Center of the American West, in a statement.

The Autry, according to the statement, remains “committed to identifying a viable future for the historic Southwest Museum campus.”

* Possert is a contributing writer to The Eastsider.


  1. Taxpayers are also giving the museum one (now) pointless and little used Metro Gold Line station.

  2. The Autry’s intention from the very beginning was to take possession of the SWM priceless collection through the myths they have created. In the first place how could the Autry take care of the building and the SWM collection with only two million dollars of endowment Autry had, compared with the SWM that had more than four million dollars at the time of the merger?

    Why did Mrs. Jackie Autry present a false Accounting Sheet pretending the Autry Museum had a 100 million in endowment when they only had two million?

    “our top priority” Of course is going to be the Autry’s top priority to take care of the collection, so they can take it to their museum, share it with other museums and even sell some or many of the artifacts.

    “priority has been to properly care for and maintain the collection after decades of neglect” This is yet another one of Autry’s myths . If the collection was is such a terrible condition as the Autry keeps repeating how come the SWM received the Accreditation from the American Museum Association two or three years before the Merger?

    The mentality of the Autry is of those that came before to these lands, signing treaties that they never meant to keep, they brought their guns and took possession of whatever they wanted, raping, lying and destroying. The Autry is no different signing a merger they never meant to keep, they brought, instead guns, their lawyers, lobbyist to take a priceless collection and destroying the history and legacy of the City of Los Angeles.

    “Tell a lie loud enough and often enough and people will believe it”. Adolf Hitler

  3. Stubborn codgers.

  4. First Off Why In The Hell Did They Sell The Collect To The Gene Autry You Know He Is Going To Use The Artifacts To Explain History From The White Man’s Point Of View. Can Someone Please Tell Me How In The World Did That Gene Autry Museum Get Built On The Griffith Park Land? I Thought Mr. Griffith Had Clauses In His Will About What Public Park Can and Can’t Be Build On This Land. How Did The How Did The Autry Foundation Manipulate This Building To Be Erect On The Griffith Park Property When Mr. Griffith Willed His Land For Public Use? Gene Autry Was Never A Cowboy He Just Play One In The Movies.

    • @ anonymous, nothing was ‘sold’ to the Autry. It was supposed to be a merger. They (Autry’s wife and lawyers) claimed to have huge amounts of money, people, and know-how to make the Southwest a better museum. The end result, up to this point, is that they took the millions the Southwest had, the collections, and closed the building up.

    • From a white man’s point of view? That sounds racist. History is history. No one can change the facts. And, some do not want their bad behavior known from their race or religion either. It is not only the white men that had some bad behavior, there was plenty of that spread around with all nationalities. And, that still today has not changed. There is bad and good and racism in all cultures. Stop spreading hate. Stop spreading racism.

  5. Many people believe that the Autry bought the SWM. In the first place the SWM collection is worth around ONE BILLION dollars not counting the building. Autry only had two million of endowment compared to the SWM who had more than four million dollars at the time of the merger. Even Mrs. Jackie Autry’s three hundred million fortune could not buy the SWM collection. All these myths have been created by the Autry to deceive the public and steal the second best collection of Native American from Canada to South America.

  6. The same people that wouldn’t let the Autry expand in Griffith Park accuse it of moving to a warehouse in Burbank.
    The same people who lobby against the Autry receiving any grants complain that the restoration is taking too long.
    The same people that speak of the Autry as robbers and liars expect Autry to be the collection’s caretaker. They have no alternative. They can’t answer if not Autry, who?

    The only crime that Autry has committed is that it’s not exhibiting a collection within a mile of the protesters houses but six miles away. Big f’n deal.

    If you care so much about where the collection belongs, you should return it to the Indians.
    It came from all over the Western States. From Alaska to New Mexico and beyond.

    The Soutwest Museum is a beautiful campus but the collection has outgrown it.
    Stop your whining and lets find a new non profit, cultural use for the Southwest.
    Perhaps something that involves the thousands of living breathing artists currently residing in Northeast LA.

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