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Autry Museum of Western Heritage

4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, California

Phone: 213-667-2000

Statement of Purpose:

The Autry Museum of Western Heritage is a world-class center devoted to preserving and interpreting the rich history and traditions of the American West. With one of the most comprehensive collections of Western history and art, its seven permanent galleries and special exhibitions offer material gathered from the many cultures and events that have shaped the legacy of this vast region.

The Autry brings together the threads of different cultures and customs that have contributed to the rich tapestry that is the West today. This history can be seen in the details of a rare photograph and in the ornate silk patterns of an American Indian wedding dress. It lies in the craftsmanship of the tools and belongings that played such vital roles in everyday life. The galleries also present the story of the West by contrasting the historical with the mythological. Art, film, and advertising have shaped perceptions of the region, and The Autry explores contemporary culture, as well as historical realities. Whether it is the art of Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, or N.C. Wyeth; the tools, clothing, and firearms of people who inhabited the West; or the costumes, scripts, and props of Western film and television, The Autry offers an enjoyable and engaging opportunity to discover the legacy of the West.



The Autry's permanent galleries, comprising about 45,000 square feet, are organized around the unifying concept of the "spirit of the West" and explore different sets of themes related to the Western experience.


Scope and Size of Collections

The combined holdings within The Autry's permanent collections currently number over 85,000 objects. The permanent collection includes: fine artworks by painters such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, John Mix Stanley, Frederic Remington, and Charles Russell; folk art such as weavings, religious woodcarvings, and Hmong story quilts; and artifacts such as tools, clothing, games, firearms, and furnishings. Special collections of archival materials are curated by the museum's Research Center and include rare books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures, television shows, and ephemera. Areas of special interest are: material culture; women and ethnic groups; art and folk art; fiction, film, television, radio and other popular culture materials; Western music; and other aspects of the "invented" West.


In the Spirit of Discovery Gallery,

different cultures are examined, from prehistoric times through Spanish, Russian, French, and American contact with native peoples, addressing how each have viewed the region with their differing perspectives and varying objectives. The Spirit of Opportunity Gallery examines the forces which motivated migration westward prior to the American Civil War and how the experience of moving to the West differed for women, men, and children. The Spirit of Conquest Gallery examines Indian and white conflict, the attacks upon native cultures, and the rapid development of transportation and communications in the opening of the West.

The Spirit of Community Gallery

works to bring new perspectives to an understanding of peoples in the West in the 1890s. By focusing upon primary groups, the gallery is meant to give visitors a clearer sense of the established communities at that time. Eight sections profile Asian, Mexican, Mormon, Canadian, African, European, and Native American groups, viewing each from such common areas of experience as family, occupation, education, religion, and political behavior. Created with the direct input and involvement of scholars from each community, the gallery is viewed as a laboratory setting in which interpretations and content constantly change. With response from local community members whose family histories are relevant to the period, new objects are added to make the section even more vibrant and informative. A unique facet of the gallery is that exhibit cases are designed with compartments that hold artifact replicas, drawn from the histories and family possessions of museum docents whose ancestors settled in the West during the time period. With the guidance of docents, children can discover and explore the replicas, creating an engaging and involved learning experience.

The Spirit of the Cowboy Gallery

uses a rich collection reflecting the changing material culture of cowboys over the last several hundred years, from the earliest Latino drovers to the working cowboy and ranch of today. The gallery is systematic, chronological, and concludes with a section on how artists have provided a changing perspective on the image of the cowboy.

Within the Spirit of the Cowboy Gallery is situated the Los Angeles Times Children's Discovery Gallery. Since its opening in 1992, this special gallery presentation has proven to be an unequivocal success, serving nearly 200,000 visitors annually and exceeding all expectations both as a multicultural learning laboratory and as a place to encourage repeat visitation. By fostering ancestral pride and building an appreciation of cultural heritage, the gallery crosses ethnic boundaries, providing a visual and stimulating means for parents and grandparents to share their own histories with their children. Especially well served by the gallery are the thousands of Latino visitors who take immense personal pride in the gallery's exhibit, "Portrait of a Family," which documents the story of a Mexican American ranching family, dating back about 200 years. Children who visit the museum during free school tours frequently bring their parents back for repeat visits. The Los Angeles Times Children's Discovery Gallery allows museum staffto test and work with young visitors to better understand their needs, leam how to serve them best, and provide a positive early exposure to a museum setting, which helps build future audiences.

The Spirit of Romance Gallery

examines how artists, authors, performers, and others affected perceptions of the West in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Important works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, John Mix Stanley, William Ranney, A. F. Tait and others are included. There are also collections related to Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other performers.

The Spirit of Imagination Gallery

shows how film, radio, television, advertising, products, and modern art have influenced perceptions of the region and its people. Video and sound installations are heavily utilized in this section. The exhibition sequence ends with a multimedia program, which summarizes the galleries as a whole.

Additional exhibit areas at The Autry include

Interpretation is also made evident in the 215-seat Wells Fargo Theater and the Mary Pickfrord Education Center, which has two classrooms and other support areas.

Education Division

Established to provide access to rich learning experiences at every stage of life, The Autry serves almost a quarter of a million children and adults annually with its public and school programming, workshops, special events, gallery tours, and speaker's bureau. Examples of programs offiered include dance, music, bilingual storytelling, plays, film series, lectures and symposia, adult workshops, children's classes, ethnic arts and crafts, and family heritage festivals. Free, guided tours are provided to over 45,000 schoolchildren each year. Temporary hands-on discovery centers (in addition to the Los Angeles Times Children's Discovery Gallery) allow visitors, both young and old, to actively learn more about history, art, and cultures. To receive your copy of the most recent calendar of public and school programming, please call (213) 667-2000, ext. 317.


Guided and unguided tours are available for school groups. Guided tours are also offered for adult groups of five or more by prior arrangement and at specified weekend hours. The museum's facilities are handicapped accessible. Call (213) 667-2000, ext. 336 to schedule a tour.

Membership at The Autry gives you and your family the opportunity to explore the exciting and inspiring story of the American West -- the people, cultures, and events that have shaped the legacy of this vital region. As a member, you can visit the museum's permanent galleries and special exhibitions as oRen as you like. Throughout the year, we present a variety of educational programs, ranging from original radio theater, cowboy poetry and music to family cultural celebrations, children's workshops, and lectures. With the many other special benefits enjoyed by members -such as discounts to programs and lectures, exhibition previews and receptions, and savings on purchases from the Golden Spur Cafe and Museum Store -- joining The Autry is as practical as it is rewarding!

Located in Los Angeles' Griffith Park at the junction of the Golden State (5) and Ventura (134) freeways, The Autry is adjacent to the Los Angeles Zoo. On surface streets, it can be reached from Forest Lawn Dr., Victory Blvd., or Los Feliz Blvd. The Autry is 15 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles and is accessible using RTD bus route 96. The museum is 20 minutes from the Burbank Airport and an hour from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Parking is free. For detailed freeway directions, please call (213) 667-2000, ext. 262.


The Autry Museum of Western Heritage

Aerial view

located on 13 acres in Griffith Park.


A section of the Spirit of the Cowboy Gallery exhibits the early Vaquero, predecessor to the U.S. cowboy.


The real spirit of the American West is recreated through many outstanding artifacts that reflect the life of the American Cowboy.

"Back in the Saddle Again"

Bronze, sculpted by De L'Esprie, dominates the courtyard of the Museum.

The Rose of the Mountain Trail

Sheet music, 1914.

Jesse James, the Missouri Outlaw

Poster, c. 1900

Santa Fe Trailways

poster, ca. 1945.

Polish poster for " Shane"

1953 classic western, starring Alan Ladd.

Key Personnel:

Joanne D. Hale, CEO & Director

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