The Southwest Museum


The Southwest Museum of the American Indian was the first museum to open in Los Angeles in 1907. Located on a hill in the Mt. Washington neighborhood, the museum mainly exhibited art and artifacts of Native Americans.

In 2003, the Southwest Museum merged with The Autry. Since then, most of the major collections have been moved off-site for research and conservation (only a Pueblo pottery exhibit remains on display). Today, the Autry looks to revitalize the historic Southwest Museum campus. They seek a partner to create programming that reflects the content of the historic Southwest Museum collections.

Southwest Museum

The Southwest Museum expanded with building additions in 1941 and 1971. We had a peek inside the research library, the interiors of which still oozed 1970s. See that IBM Selectric II! And there was what appeared to be an old printer—it had a glass platen and a foam-covered clamshell controlled by a foot pedal (I later tracked down what it was online: 1913 Eastman Kodak Contact Printer).

The Casa de Adobe is a replica of a Spanish California rancho built with adobe bricks. Located across the way on Figueroa Street, it became part of the Southwest Museum in 1925. The house served to represent the lifestyle of early Spanish Californians and its courtyard provided a venue for special events.

Above, a view from the Casa de Adobe courtyard looking northwest to the museum’s seven-story tower. Below, a view from the tower roof looking south.

And towards the end of our visit, it was sweet to find this beautiful sentiment that founder Charles Lummis had adopted for the Southwest Museum: Mañana flor de sus ayeres (Tomorrow is the flower of its yesterdays).

Southwest Museum