Autry leaders, curators, educators, and other staff are available to speak on a variety of topics related to the American West.
W. Richard West, Jr. (Cheyenne)
President and CEO
Expertise: Museum leadership and vision, culture and heritage of American Indians living in the United States, American history from a Native American perspective, Native American law
Rick West assumed leadership of the Autry in December 2012. He was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), where he guided the successful opening of the three facilities that comprise the NMAI. He oversaw the creation of the George Gustav Heye Center (New York, 1994); supervised planning for the Cultural Resources Center (Suitland, MD, 1999), housing 800,000 objects; and provided critical vision for the Mall museum (Washington, D.C., 2004). He most recently served as the interim director of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. Before his museum career, West practiced law at the Indian-owned Albuquerque, New Mexico law firm of Gover, Stetson, Williams & West, P.C. and was an associate attorney, then partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. He was counsel to American Indian tribes, communities, and organizations, representing clients before federal, state, and tribal courts, federal agencies, and the U.S. Congress. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American history magna cum laude from the University of Redlands, a master’s degree in American history from Harvard University, and a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford University, where he served as an editor and note editor of the Stanford Law Review. West is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne.
Carolyn Brucken, PhD
Curator of Western Women’s History
Expertise: Western women’s history, historic clothing and fashion, the American West and the Civil War, nineteenth-century Westward expansion and history, California Gold Rush
Carolyn Brucken interprets and researches Autry exhibitions, as well as develops its collections with a focus on women in the West. Her exhibitions at the Autry include California Style: Art and Fashion From the California Historical Society(2007), Home Lands: How Women Made the West (2010), California’s Designing Women (2012), Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic (2013) and Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (2015). During a decade-long career, she has served as the interim vice president of curatorial and exhibitions (2012) and the deputy director of the Institute for the Study of American West (2007–2008). Before joining the Autry, Brucken worked at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles (1999–2003) and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (1994–1996). She taught American studies at Miami University and California State University–Fullerton. She is coauthor of Home Lands: How Women Made the West(University of California Press, 2010). Brucken holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Miami University, a master’s degree from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in early American culture, and a doctorate in American civilization from George Washington University.
Vice President of Communications and Visitor Experience
Expertise: Museum communications, social media, and visitor experience
Maren Dougherty oversees the Autry’s Communications and Visitor Experience division, which includes Marketing, Communications, Membership, Visitor Services, Public Programs, and Education. From 2013-2016, she served as the Autry's Director of Communications and Marketing. Prior to joining the Autry, Dougherty was the director of external affairs for the Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC), a groundbreaking museum technology project serving more than twenty cultural institutions in San Diego’s Balboa Park. In 2011, Dougherty was one of two BPOC staff to live in Balboa Park for 26.2 days for “Museum Marathon,” a social media campaign to showcase everything happening at the park and its cultural institutions. With a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Dougherty has written for publications including Fodor’s San Diego, National Geographic Adventure, New York Magazine, San Diego Magazine, and UT San Diego. A graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute's NextGen executive education program for museum professionals, she has presented at national conferences that include Museum Computer Network, Museums and the Web, and the Yeongwol International Museum Forum (Korea). She also served on the program committee for the 2012 IMLS WebWise Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital Age.
Gamble Assistant Curator of Western History, Pop Culture, & Firearms
Expertise: History, literature, film, and music of the American West; American Indian history
Josh Garrett-Davis has researched and published on the American West since 2001. His writing has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, High Country News, South Dakota History, California History, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places. He is currently a PhD candidate in U.S. history at Princeton University, researching Native American engagements with audio technology from 1890 to 1970. He has been awarded fellowships from the Huntington Library and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. His previous museum experience includes working in the communications department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as an intern at the South Dakota State Historical Society. He is the author of the regional meditation Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains (Little, Brown, 2012), and a member of the Colorado-based art collective M12. He earned a master’s degree in nonfiction writing from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Amherst College.
Erik Greenberg, PhD
Director of Education and Visitor Engagement
Expertise: American Jewish history, U.S. history (Progressive era, Cold War), ethnic history, immigration history, the history of American consumerism, U.S. cultural and intellectual history, public history, history education
Erik Greenberg has spent more than a decade teaching historical subjects, ranging from the history of the American West to the American Jewish experience, to students from Kindergarten through college and beyond. Greenberg is a frequent contributor to a number of academic journals and has received numerous awards and honors, includingthe Whitsett Fellowship for the Study of California and the American West (CSUN), the American Jewish Archives’ Lowenstein-Wiener Research Fellowship, and LAUSD Title VII’s Person of the Year recognition award in 2012. He holds a doctorate in history from UCLA and a master’s in the same subject from UCLA and California State University–Northridge.
Nancy Marie Mithlo, PhD
Chair of American Indian Studies
Expertise: Native American art, cultural anthropology, art history, visual arts
Nancy Marie Mithlo (Chiricahua Apache) is an associate professor of art history and visual arts at Occidental College. She earned her PhD in cultural anthropology from Stanford University writing on the role of Native American artists. Mithlo’s extensive relationship with the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, includes directing the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and editing the 2011 publication Manifestations: New Native Art Criticism.She was awarded fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center. Mithlo’s curatorial work has resulted in seven exhibits at the Venice Biennale. A lifelong educator, Mithlo has taught at the University of New Mexico, the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Santa Fe Community College, Smith College, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Expertise: Collections preservation and conservation
Richard and his staff see to the preservation of the over 400,000 artifacts in the Autry collections by performing conservation treatments, establishing policies and procedures for artifact preservation, and collaborating with other Autry departments to ensure the safety, security, and responsible public access of those collections. He started at the Autry in 1999 and was promoted to Chief Conservator in 2007. Richard has given presentations and seminars to various institutions regarding the preservation of their own collections, with a focus on firearms conservation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geography from University of Regina and a master's of Art Conservation from Queen’s University (Canada). His post-graduate studies in Photographic Conservation (Winterthur, Univ. of Delaware) led him to positions at the National Gallery and the National Archives of Canada.
Senior Media Producer
Expertise: Film and new media development
Since joining the Autry in 2011, Laura Purdy has created multimedia installations for more than thirteen exhibitions, including California Continued (2016), Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (2015), Route 66: The Road and the Romance (2014), and Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork (2014). The interactive media productions she created for Floral Journey garnered the 2014 Silver Medal MUSE award for Video, Film, and Computer Animation. In 2008 she served as the executive producer of interactive design, video, and application for the Center for Empowered Living and Learning. Her museum experience started in 1999 as the postproduction supervisor and assistant Avid editor at the Museum of Tolerance’s Academy Award-winning documentary film division, Moriah Films. Her personal films have screened in the U.S. and internationally at festivals and museums such as the Getty, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and Otis Gallery. Her short film π was nominated for a Student Academy Award and received a Certificate of Merit at the Chicago International Film Festival. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University and a master’s of fine arts degree in cinema production from San Francisco State University.
Chair of Western Women’s History
Expertise: American women’s history, gender studies, women in the West, American Civil War, history of automobiles, twentieth-century American history
Virginia Scharff is Chair of Western Women’s History at the Autry, where she served as co-curator Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (2015)and Home Lands: How Women Made the West (2010). She is also the Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico. She has published numerous books, including Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age (1991); Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West (2003); two textbooks, Present Tense: The United States Since 1945 (1996) and Coming of Age: America in the Twentieth Century (1998); Home Lands: How Women Made the West (coauthored with Carolyn Brucken, 2010); and the edited volume Seeing Nature Through Gender (2003). In her most recent book, The Women Jefferson Loved (HarperCollins, 2010)—named a New York TimesEditor’s Choice—Scharff puts Jefferson’s free and slave families into the same story, and reveals how Jefferson’s love for women shaped his ideas, achievements, and legacies. Scharff was previously a Beinecke Research Fellow in the Lamar Center for Frontiers and Borders at Yale University from 2008 to 2009, in addition to serving as president of the Western History Association in 2008. She is also a Fellow and Executive Board Member of the Society of American Historians. Scharff has authored four mystery suspense novels, written under the name of Virginia Swift: Brown-Eyed Girl (2000), Bad Company (2002),Bye, Bye, Love (2004), and Hello, Stranger (2006).
Amy Scott, PhD
Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator of Visual Arts
Expertise: History of the art of the American West; women in Western art; Yosemite; landscape painting
Amy Scott develops and interprets exhibitions, publications, and gallery installations with a focus on art of the American West. Her exhibitions at the Autry have included Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park (2004), Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (2006), Maverick Art (2008), Charting the Canyon: Photographs by Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe (2009), Karen Kitchel: Seasonal Overture (2012), Art of the West (2013), and New Acquisitions Featuring the Kaufman Collection (2015). Prior to joining the Autry, Scott was curatorial assistant at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and a curator at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe. She has published several books and articles, including Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (University of California Press, 2006); Len Chmiel: An Authentic Nature (RFA Publishing, 2011); and Twenty-Nine Palms: Landscapes and Nudes by Patrick Alt (Patrick Alt Publishing, 2013). Scott holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Kansas, a master’s degree in art history from the University of Missouri, and a doctorate in visual studies from UC–Irvine. She was awarded the Regents Fellowship at UC–Irvine in 2006 and was a Huntington Library Research Fellow in 2010.
Sarah Wilson joined the Autry in 2013 and has held positions in both the curatorial and education departments. She has worked on the California Continued galleries and ethnobotanical garden; Revolutionary Vision: Group f/64 and Richard Misrach, Photographs From the Bank of America Collection (2016); and New Acquisitions Featuring the Kaufman Collection (2015). Her previous museum experience includes an internship with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and positions at the Bates College Museum of Art and Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. She holds a master’s degree in art history from Stony Brook University–SUNY, a master’s degree in arts management from American University, and a bachelor’s degree in art history from Bates College.