Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day at the Autry

Today was spent at the Museum of the American West, otherwise called the Autry Museum.

It had been over a year since I last visited, and it's always a bit tricky finding the place. Even thought the Museum is right next to Interstate 5, finding the right exit is a challenge and if you're not careful you could end up on the way to Glendale. But I managed to take the right exit, telling myself to remember for next time exactly which exit to take. Of course I won't remember. The Museum is in Griffith Park, right across the expansive parking lot from the Los Angeles Zoo, and judging from the parking lot appearances, the difference in attendance is remarkable. The zoo parking lot was completely full, the Autry parking lot close to empty. And this on a Sunday at noon.

Waiting for my friend, I made a beeline for the Gift Shop like I usually do and went straight to the bookshelves. They have a large collection of history of the West books, along with books on ethnic studies, Native American studies, the Western in film, Art, women's studies, you name it.
I fell upon a copy of Pulp Writer on the shelf, which was nice to see that it has a respectable place in such a collection, but not nice because nobody had bought it. Oh well, can't be too picky.

The museum has a permanent collection that I love, that covers the discovery and exploration of the West, to community living including how African Americans lived and the settlement of the Mormons. There is a large saddle collection and a gun collection (although I didn't go through that this time). And while I'm sure it isn't the same caliber, so to speak, as the Smithsonian or even other museums of the West, it still entertains me and I learn something new every time. This visit, we ventured outside and learned how to pan gold. Now I grew up in the Gold Country - Angels Camp - and the entire time I lived there I never bothered to go to any of the "tourist traps" and "panned for gold." What a uncool thing to do, I used to think as a smug 16 year old. If I had done it, perhaps I would have had a better appreciation for the history of the area. Panning for gold is hard.

Back inside, I love how you walk onto a movie set when you enter the gallery that talks about the Western in Hollywood. and I always end up engrossed in the exhibits that cover everything from the first silents up through the heroes of the 1920s like Tom Mix and Ken Maynard (never get tired of watching the video in which Maynard rips off his saddle at a full gallop) to the grand old masters like Wayne and newer ones like Eastwood. The merchandising of Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger, and proper homage is paid to other cowboy singers of Autry's time like Roy Rogers.

The museum of course, has a rolling schedule of exhibits that change every few months; this time I didn't bother. Namely because none of the subject matters interested me, but also because that buffalo burger in the Golden Spur Cafe was calling me.



Wow that's incredible. I want to go there - I want to do the gold panning - I want to see the guns and buy all the books except for Pulp Writer because I've already got that one. And the burgars - I'll take a couple of those.

Laurie Powers said...

I forgot to mention that they also have a Special Collections, so if you need to do research on your next novel they have some good stuff. I spent a couple of days in there when I was researching the history of Wild West Weekly.

You'd probably go crazy over the DVD collection too.