The Southwest Museum of the American Indian — in the Mount Washington neighborhood of northeast Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jengod [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
The Southwest Museum of the American Indian — in the Mount Washington neighborhood of northeast Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jengod [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

A national historic-preservation group announced Wednesday it has designated the Southwest Museum a national treasure and will help develop a vision for the future of the 100-year-old museum, which is billed as owning the country’s largest collection of Native American historical archives and artifacts.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation — one of the nation’s leading private historic preservation groups — named the site of the Southwest Museum as the trust’s newest national treasure and said it would help develop a vision for its future.

Access to the Mount Washington museum, which was started in 1907 by journalist and ethnographer Charles Lummis, has been limited in recent years, with only Saturday hours being offered. The limited access has prompted criticism from fans of the museum who claim the Autry National Center, which recently took it over, has not been doing enough to revive the site.

Barbara Pahl of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said designating the museum site as a national treasure recognizes “the historic, architectural and cultural values that have made the Southwest Museum site a beloved fixture in Los Angeles for the past century.”

“With the collaboration and enthusiasm of the Autry, the city of Los Angeles, and individuals and organizations both in the neighborhood and throughout Los Angeles, we look forward to identifying a sustainable use that ensures that the Southwest Museum site actively contributes to the thriving urban fabric of Los Angeles for the next 100 years,” Pahl said.

The Autry museum’s president, W. Richard West Jr., said Autry officials are “honored to partner with the National Trust to identify a proud and viable future for the site that will respect its important legacy and bring value to the community and Los Angeles area.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents the Mount Washington area, thanked the trust “for its recognition of this iconic Los Angeles landmark and commitment to helping us pursue a plan for a sustainable and promising future.”

He added that he is working with the Autry and “engaging with a broad range of local stakeholders to focus on realistic uses that will respect the site’s historic presence in this vibrant part of Los Angeles and will bring important benefits to the community and the broader L.A. region.”

— City News Service

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