Southwest Museum Mt. Washington

Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus

VISIT

Open Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Additional Hours Through June 18: Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
234 Museum Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Free Admission 

TRANSPORTATION

Parking is free but limited. To arrive via public transportation, take the Metro Gold Line to the Southwest Museum Station, located near the intersection of Marmion Way and Museum Drive. Enter through the pedestrian tunnel entrance on Museum Drive.

At this historic site, some areas are fully accessible to wheelchair users; other areas may require assistance.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS

Lummis Days
Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Discover the creativity of Northeast Los Angeles through this weekend of art, music, and poetry. The annual festival celebrates the legacy of legendary author, journalist, and historic Southwest Museum founder Charles Fletcher Lummis. 

For the Love of the Arroyo
May 21–June 18, Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

From its inception at the Devil’s Gate Dam area in Altadena to its terminus near downtown Los Angeles, the Arroyo Seco encompasses a variety of flora and fauna as well as some of the region’s most culturally diverse urban communities. Drawing on the beauty and diversity of the Arroyo Seco, this exhibition features paintings, drawings, and mixed-media works by more than a dozen local artists. Presented in collaboration with local artists and curators Raoul De la Sota and Roderick Smith. 

ONGOING

Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery features more than 100 pieces of rare ceramics from the Autry’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection. This exhibition traces the dramatic changes that transformed the Pueblo pottery tradition in the era following sixteenth-century Spanish colonization to the present.

Overlooking the Arroyo Seco, the ethnobotanical community garden features native California plants used for food, shelter, and clothing.

Please note: In preparation for moving to a new, state-of-the-art research and collections care facility, the Braun Research Library closed in August 2015.

Map and directions

Get directions from your location.

Mt. Washington

234 Museum Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90065-5030
T: 323.221.2164

About the Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus

The historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus was founded as the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in 1907 by Charles F. Lummis and the Southwest Society (formed in 1903), the western branch of the Archaeological Institute of America. The Southwest Museum building was constructed between 1912 and 1914. Lummis worked with architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns to design the main museum building and the Caracol and Torrance towers. Lummis wanted the building to reflect Spanish culture and the Alhambra in Spain. The tunnel and elevator were added in 1919–1920 to provide easier access to the museum. In 1977 the Braun Research Library was constructed to house the ever-growing research collection, which had outgrown its space in the Torrance Tower.

For much of the 20th century, the museum welcomed visitors from around the world and remained an important part of the city’s cultural landscape. However, many years of financial challenges and declining attendance led the Southwest Museum to merge with the Autry Museum in 2003. Following the merger, the Autry embarked on a comprehensive conservation program to save, preserve, and protect the important collections and identify a long-term, sustainable future for the historic site. 

The Southwest Museum building is on the National Register of Historical Places and the California Register of Historic Places. Both the Southwest Museum building and the Braun Library are listed as City of Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monuments. 


AFTER THE MERGER

COLLECTIONS From 2004 to 2016, the Autry focused on completing its extensive multi-year, multi-million-dollar work to preserve the significant collections of art, archives, and cultural materials that had been housed at the 103-year-old Southwest Museum site. The combined collections of the Southwest Museum and the Autry—numbering more than 500,000—are now maintained properly and safely at the state-of-the-art Resources Center of the Autry in Burbank, which is currently under construction. Since the merger, the Autry has exhibited thousands of objects from the Southwest Museum Collection, primarily at its Griffith Park campus, helping to present a more complete story of the American West for students, researchers, and the general public. 

SITE In January 2015, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, working in collaboration with the Autry and the City of Los Angeles, designated the historic site a “National Treasure,” launching a multi-phased planning process to identify financially sustainable uses for the Southwest Museum site that reactivate the campus and respond to community needs.


A COLLABORATIVE FUTURE

Together with the National Trust, the City of Los Angeles, and the National Treasure Steering Committee, the Autry is dedicated to finding community-focused organizations that have the necessary organizational and financial capacity to support this important site, and the commitment to be effective long-term partners in its operations.

COMMUNITY Partners must understand and recognize community needs. They should be well-respected and deeply embedded in Los Angeles with community-oriented, culturally-focused missions. They must be dedicated to maintaining public access to the site.

CAPACITY Partners must have significant fundraising and organizational capacity to reactivate these historic sites in ways that respond to community needs, but also are financially sustainable. The costs for the rehabilitation of the buildings and grounds (estimated by 2014 Gruen Associates studies, commissioned by the City of L.A.,  to be as much as $40+ million for the Southwest Museum site and up to $5 million for the historic Casa de Adobe), combined with annual operating costs, have consistently been the biggest challenge to reactivating these sites.

COMMITMENT Partners must be committed to preserving the historic site and creatively incorporating the historic Southwest Museum collections into their plans and operational models for exhibition, inspiration, and creative programming, in partnership with the Autry and other organizations.

As of March 2017, key potential partners began the difficult and important due diligence work to fully assess the site and grounds, and understand the opportunities, challenges, and costs associated with re-activating the site. For more updates, visit TreasureSWM.org.

Collection Details

The Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, the second largest collection of Native American objects in the United States, is widely regarded as one of the finest collections in the world. Artifacts range in age from prehistoric to the present, documenting Native history and culture in the Americas. Some of the earliest pieces in the collection include archaeological materials from museum- sponsored excavations, including those led by notable archaeologist and curator Mark Raymond Harrington. Other collection strengths include a stunning array of ceramics from the southwestern United States. Today, the Autry is committed to maintaining its stewardship responsibilities for this important collection by conserving these objects and ensuring their preservation for generations to come.

Preservation Project Details

The Autry’s Southwest Museum Preservation Project is a multimillion-dollar effort to inventory, preserve, conserve, and rehouse roughly 250,000 artifacts. We are currently focusing on the preservation of 157,000 artifacts that were specifically affected by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Of those 157,000 artifacts, there are 9,000 ethnographic, 10,000 ceramic, and 138,000 archaeological objects.

Over the years, overcrowded storage rooms, poor climate controls, water leaks, pests, and dust imperiled the artifacts, advancing the deterioration of objects of great historic and educational value.

The Collections Management and Conservation team involved in the project works daily to safely rehouse and conserve each object. Our staff has established a process to preserve these artifacts, which consists of cleaning, condition reporting, photographing, stabilizing objects in fragile condition, storage mounting, housing, and mitigating pest activity, if necessary. Storage mounts are custom made and unique to individual objects, as the artifacts vary greatly in size, shape, material, and condition. The rehousing process helps ensure that objects maintain their present condition, whether they are being handled, moved, or stored.

Because of these preservation efforts, this culturally important collection can be accessed and shared with American Indian tribes, researchers, and the general public for many generations to come.