Exciting Developments at the Southwest Museum

Revitalizing the oldest museum in the City of Los Angeles

By Yadhira De Leon
Published on LatinoLA: April 22, 2004

Exciting Developments at the Southwest Museum

The Southwest Museum of the American Indian remains open to the general public throughout the coming years. Conservation efforts have commenced, and gallery refreshing begins this spring as part of the Autry National Center?s long-term efforts to save the collection and tell the stories of indigenous peoples at the Southwest Museum.

The Southwest Museum, with its almost one-hundred-year history of collecting American Indian artifacts, has faced many obstacles that challenge the longevity of its collection, including pest infestation and lack of environmental controls. Although this has caused deterioration of some historically significant artifacts, the Center, backed by generous grants, is now able to bring in expert conservators and improve environmental conditions.

In order to keep the museum open and accessible to the public, the Center has devised a three-year plan, beginning with the conversion of two lower-level galleries into conservation areas. Efforts to make these activities accessible to the public include rotating exhibitions on conservation work.

The main-level galleries will be refreshed with never-before-seen objects, which will replace the current twenty-year-old displays. The museum?s four main-level exhibit halls will focus on American Indians of the Southwest, California, the Great Plains, and the Northwest Coast. Exhibition highlights include a replica of a Santa Susana Mountains Chumash Indian rock art site and two beautifully carved Northwest house posts. Other notable objects include prehistoric-Southwest painted pottery and a basketry collection that is one of the largest such collections in the United States.

In June, a contemporary Blackfeet tipi (oyis) will be installed in the Plains Hall Gallery, replacing the traditional Southern Cheyenne tipi that has towered over visitors for over 20 years. The Blackfeet tipi was commissioned by the Southwest Museum and painted by Pikuni Blackfeet artist Darrell Norman, whose art is based on Blackfeet design and imagery. The top of the tipi illustrates the night sky and stars. A sun symbol is shown at the top and back side with horsehair decorations. A red line at the top represents a rainbow (protecting spirit). Below the rainbow is a blue line with circles, which represents the wolf trail (Milky Way). At the very bottom are a design that represents hills, and discs that represent rocks of the Plains.

Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery, which features more than one hundred historic and pre-contact Pueblo ceramics, continues in Sprague Auditorium. The Pueblos occupy nearly thirty villages in New Mexico and Arizona, where they have preserved their ancient traditions through centuries of contact with other cultures.

Female Traditions in Hopi Culture also is on display through April 25, 2004. This exhibition, featuring traditional tasks performed by Hopi women, includes twenty-eight striking photographs taken by Charles F. Lummis, George Wharton James, Adam Clark Vroman, and Charles Francis Saunders. In addition, the American Indian Student Exhibition will be featured again this year during the month of May.

The Center is committed to renewing the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and continuing public programs within the existing buildings and the nearby Casa de Adobe. For the months of May and June, the Center is pleased to offer events from the American Indian perspective for students, families, and aspiring writers.


May 1?31, 2004
American Indian Student Exhibition
American Indian students in grades K through 12 will exhibit their work on California Native culture. Working with the Los Angeles Unified School District?s American Indian Education (Title VII) program, the exhibition highlights students? explorations of their heritage.

Monday, May 10, Tuesday, May 11, Monday, May 17,
Tuesday, May 18, Wednesday, May 19, Monday, May 24
Artist Demonstration
12:30 ? 1:30 pm
In conjunction with the American Indian Student Exhibition, culture bearer Barbara Drake (Tongva), a founding member of the Mother Earth Clan, will present hands-on activities related to the lifeways of Southern California people. Free with museum admission.

Wednesday, May 12
Soaring Adventures: Ten Little Rabbits
3 ? 4 p.m., Preschool Program
Explore American Indian traditions of weaving, fishing, and storytelling as you count from 1 to 10. Then search for numbers throughout the museum?s galleries. Free with museum admission.

Sunday, May 16
Mercado and Museums of the Arroyo Day
11 a.m. ? 5 p.m.
Celebrate California?s rich Hispanic heritage and the fifteenth annual Museums of the Arroyo Day at the Southwest. Regional items from Mexico and Central America, including masks, sculpture, weavings, pottery, basketry, carvings, paintings, and santos, will be on display and for sale. Dancing, storytelling, artist demonstrations, and music will ring in the courtyard throughout the day. Museums of the Arroyo Day features free admission to the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Gamble House, Heritage Square Museum, the Lummis Home and Garden, and the Pasadena Museum of History, with free and continuous shuttle service running between participating institutions. For more information about Museums of the Arroyo, visit www.museumsofthearroyo.com or call 213.740.8687. Admission to the Mercado and museums on this day is free.

Saturday, May 22
Screenwriters Workshop
10 a.m. ? 5 p.m.
First in a series of ongoing film and video workshops, this class, presented by the Native American Film and Television Association (NAFATA), shows you how to structure and polish a screenplay and is open to actors, directors, producers, and writers. Bring up to three pages of your script for personal feedback. Writer, actor, and director Neil Flowers (MFA/MA) teaches this class. For registration and information please visit www.nafata.org. Registration fee for both days is $100, which benefits NAFATA and the American Indian College Fund.

Wednesday, June 9
Soaring Adventures: Zuni Pokean
3 ? 4 p.m., Preschool Program
Play the Zuni Indian game of Pokean, a game of skill played with a shuttlecock of rolled cornhusks and feathers. Make your own game piece to play with and take home. Free with museum admission.

Saturday, June 26
Native Writers Panel
2 ? 3:30 p.m.
Explore how new plays are developed and produced with a panel of American Indian playwrights and representatives from Los Angeles?s theatre community. This event is free to the public.

Admission is $7.50 for adults, $5.00 for students and seniors 60+, $3.00 for children 2?12, and free for children under age 2. The Southwest Museum and Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month.

One Ticket / Two Sites
Two-site tickets are good for admission to both the Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington and the Museum of the American West in Griffith Park. Tickets can be used anytime within three months of purchase.

Adults: $12.00
Students and seniors 60+: $8.00
Children 2?12: $5.00

About Yadhira De Leon:
Yadhira De Leon is the Community and Public Relations Manager for the Autry National Center.
Relaunched Southwest Museum website: www.southwestmuseum.org
Autry National Center website: www.autrynationalcenter.org

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