Autry leaders, curators, educators, and other staff are available to speak on a variety of topics related to the American West.
Stephen Aron, PhD
President and Chief Executive Officer
Expertise: Frontier and Western American history; Colonial North America, 19th-Century U.S. History, The American West in Global Perspective
Stephen Aron assumed leadership of the Autry in July 2021 after a three-decade career as a professor of history, first at Princeton University and then for a quarter-century at the University of California, Los Angeles. A specialist in the history of frontiers, borderlands and the American West, Dr. Aron holds degrees from Amherst College (B.A.) and the University of California, Berkeley (M.A., Ph.D.). He is the author of How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (1996); American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State (2006); and The American West: A Very Short Introduction (2015); and the co-author of Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World from the Beginnings of Humankind to the Present (2017, 5th edition). Aron’s next book, Peace and Friendship: An Alternative History of the American West, will be published in 2022 by Oxford University Press. His scholarship, which also includes scores of articles and book chapters, has earned several prizes, been recognized by his election to the Society of American Historians and as President of the Western History, and by his appointment to the Peter and Margaret D’Angelo Chair in the Humanities at St. John’s University.
Aron’s formal affiliation with the Autry began in 2002, when UCLA allowed him to split his appointment and become Executive Director of the Autry’s newly-created Institute for the Study of the American West. In that position, Aron oversaw the Autry’s libraries, research, publications, programs, and education departments. He also served as the editor of its Convergence magazine. After returning full-time to UCLA, Aron served a term as the chair of the history department.
Tyree A. Boyd-Pates
Associate Curator of Western History
Expertise: The African American Experience in the American West: Chattel Enslavement, Social Movements, Civil Uprisings, Film, Religion, Music, and Fashion
Starting his career as a Professor of Africana studies at California State University Dominguez Hills, Tyree taught introductory courses into the discipline and African American history. Shortly thereafter, Boyd-Pates served as the History Curator and Public Program Manager at the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles. During his tenure at CAAM, he has organized several acclaimed exhibitions, including Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century (2019), Making Mammy: A Caricature of Black Womanhood, 1840– 1940 (2019), How Sweet the Sound: Gospel Music in Los Angeles (2018), California Bound: Slavery on the New Frontier 1848 -1865 (2018), and No Justice, No Peace, LA 1992 (2017).
At the Autry, Boyd-Pates spearheads American history exhibitions and historical initiatives that engage communities across the region for archival purposes, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests across the American West. Additionally, Boyd-Pates also teaches at UCLA's Luskin Center for History and Policy.
Boyd-Pates holds a bachelor's degree in Communications ( with an emphasis in Public Relations) with a minor in African American Studies from California State University, Bakersfield, and a master's degree in Africology and African American studies from Temple University.
Recently, Tyree was named both a 2021 Innovation Fellow with the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy and Civic Media Fellow with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC.
Carolyn Brucken, PhD
Expertise: Western women’s history, historic clothing and fashion, history of Griffith Park, the American West and the Civil War, nineteenth-century West
Carolyn Brucken interprets and researches Autry exhibitions, as well as develops its collections with a focus on western history. 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), Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (2015), Play! (2017), Investigating Griffith Park (on-going) and Dress Codes (2022). She currently serves as Chief Curator and also teaches at Claremont Graduate University. 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 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.
Josh Garrett-Davis, PhD
Gamble Associate Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms
Expertise: History, literature, film, and music of the American West; Native American history
Josh Garrett-Davis has served as one of the Autry’s history curators since 2016. He is leading the renovation of the museum’s core pop-culture gallery, Imagined Wests, and previously curated displays on Gene Autry, gold rush firearms, mass incarceration in the West, and the Standing Rock water protectors. He is the author of two books, What Is a Western? Region, Genre, Imagination (2019); and Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains (2012); and has co-edited three books with the M12 arts collective, including This Road Leads to Nowhere: Pierre Punk (2018). His essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Western Historical Quarterly, High Country News, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in South Dakota, and earned an undergraduate degree in American studies at Amherst College, an MFA in writing from Columbia University, and a PhD in history at Princeton University, where his dissertation examined Native American sound media in the early twentieth century.
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.
Liza Posas, MLIS
Head of Research Services & Archives
Expertise: Archive administration and research
Liza Posas joined the Autry in 2005 where she currently serves as the Head of Research Services and Archives. In this capacity, she oversees the long-range planning and implementation of the Autry’s archival program that includes the acquisition, processing, collection management, and curatorial activities of the Autry’s institutional archive and manuscript collections. She is also responsible for developing the reference services for the Libraries and Archives. Liza also holds an appointed faculty position with the USC Libraries as the Coordinator for LA as Subject (LAAS), a collaborative network hosted by the USC Libraries that works to promote and preserve the rich history of Los Angeles and Southern California. She curated What's Her Story: Women in the Archives (2020).
Virginia Scharff; PhD
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
Executive Vice President of Research and Interpretation
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
Dr. Amy Scott received her B.A. in Art History at the University of Kansas and M.A. from the University of Missouri Kansas City while working as a curatorial assistant at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In 2000 she assumed the role of Curator of Visual Arts at the Autry Museum and in 2013 earned her Ph.D. in Visual Studies at the University of California Irvine before being advanced at the beginning of 2019 to her current role.
Throughout, she has curated several of the Autry’s signature exhibitions and core galleries including Coyote Leaves the Res: The Art of Harry Fonseca (2019); LA RAZA (2017); Art of the West (2013); and Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (2006). She has likewise contributed to many books and catalogues on the art of the American West including LA RAZA (2019); Art of the West (2018) published by the University of Oklahoma Press with a grant from the Luce Foundation; and Paul Pletka Imagined Wests (2017).
Director of Education
Expertise: American public art, landscape architecture; interdisciplinary approaches to storytelling; museum evaluation
Sarah Wilson joined the Autry in 2013 and has held positions in both the Curatorial and Education departments. She has worked on Revolutionary Vision: Group f/64 and Richard Misrach Photographs from the Bank of America Collection, New Acquisitions Featuring the Kaufman Collection, California Continued, PLAY!, LA RAZA, and Out of the Ashes: Snapshots of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 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 SUNY Stony Brook, a master’s degree in arts management from American University, and a bachelor’s degree in art history from Bates College.