Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The story of the Southwest Museum is a sad one.
Opened in 1913, it's the oldest museum in Los Angeles.
Built on a hillside, it has commanding views over Highland Park from Downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena.
It owns one of the finest collections of Native American artifacts in the world.
Yet today the museum is only open one day a week (Saturday) and most of its priceless collection is hidden from view.
One hundred years old, the building is completely outmoded. It was built BEFORE cars were in the mainstream and is oriented towards a commuter line running up the Arroyo Secco. A century ago, after arriving by rail, visitors were expected to hike up a rugged path clinging to a steep hillside. After the museum's director died of a heart attack climbing up to the front door a tunnel connecting to an elevator was installed to ease access.
The museum is laid out on several terraced levels making it completely inaccessible to those with mobility issues.
Out of money, the Southwest Museum was taken over by the Autry Museum which pledged to curate and maintain the collection -- a considerable financial commitment.
But the hillside gem of a museum remains nearly vacant, a White Elephant from another era.