September 22, 2013

Autry, Eiteljorg reinvent themselves

A Museum Works to Reinvent Itself, as Well as the American West

At Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Histories ConvergeThe old celebratory themes invoked on the museum’s mural—“Discovery, Opportunity, Conquest, Community, Cowboy, Romance, Imagination”—have been attacked by a generation of historians, first because of the fates of American Indians, then for their implicit ethnic and social homogeneity. And now the Autry, along with a few other major museums, like the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., is trying to reshape that national mythology.Eiteljorg lures visitors with wide-ranging exhibits"We started brainstorming," said Chris Katterjohn, a board member since the mid-1990s who recently wrapped up a two-year stint as board chair, "and we came up with a strategy we called 'the unexpected west.' When most people thought of the Eiteljorg they were thinking of Indian pottery, western paintings, and we understand the audience for that niche is somewhat limited. So we came up with topics we thought would be related to the west that would attract different audiences."Comment:  For more on museums, see Wounded Knee Museum Rises from Ashes and Museum Closes Sand Creek Exhibit.

Below:  "A 1948 Indian Chief motorcycle and the painting War Music II, by Mateo Romero (2008)." (Stephanie Diani for the New York Times)

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