Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Autry National Center

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
My Cost: Free!

4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Before I get into the outing of the day, I just want to say that I did spend some time this morning reflecting on the events of September 11th, 2001. It's strange to think that my children will have no memory of the event - they will only learn about it as a part of history. My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones, as well as the survivors of this traumatic event. In the summer of 1997 I went to the top of one of the World Trade Center towers. I looked across at the other and marveled at how high up we were. It must have been absolutely terrifying on that day.

Now, on to less serious thoughts - the outing of the day. The Autry National Center is free to the public on the second Tuesday of every month. I have looked at this museum many, many, many times as I drove up and down the I-5 freeway, every time I visited the zoo, driving past to other Griffith Park attractions, etc. I am now embarrassed to say that I didn't make it a point to come sooner. I even knew of childrens' programs that were promoted in partnership with the Ford Theaters, (thanks to my work with another LA County Arts Commission grant recipient organization: The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony,) and yet I still never really associated The Autry as a childrens' destination. Boy, was I wrong!

Exiting the zoo last Friday, I took a picture of The Autry, so you can see how the
two places are basically connected across the parking lots by a big walkway.

(Side note: another reason why The Autry wasn't as high on my list of places to go as it should have been was because I'd already "been there," as in, I played there during their 2007 Sizzling Summer Nights at the Autry series with the late, great Francisco Aguabella. Somehow, because I'd been in that courtyard entrance area, I thought there wasn't much more to the museum than a few hallways filled with some photographs and cowboy boots. Let me repeat, boy, was I wrong!)

Here is the band from that day, August 16, 2007.
Francisco Aguabella is behind the red congas. I am at the far right playing trombone, (the only girl.)
Jeff Goodkind on piano, Brian Wright on bass, Benn Clatworthy on tenor sax, and Brian Swartz on trumpet.
I'm forgetting the guy on drums behind Francisco. If someone reminds me, I will add his name too!)
We started our exploration on the Plaza level, (who knew this place had more than one level?) in the Norman F. Sprague, Jr. Gallery where they are currently showcasing "Katsina in Hopi Life." I would have loved to explore the exhibit, but I was horrified that Vivi almost ripped a leaf off a cardboard corn stalk, and then ran and smacked her hands against some of the pictures on the wall. Touching anything in a museum is usually super taboo, so I thought we were going to have to turn right around and leave. But then I spotted, down the stairs, the outdoor Trails West area. So we headed down there.

The lower level galleries are all built surrounding the Heritage Court, an open court whose walls are covered with murals of famous western figures and western scenes.

Vivi was more interested in climbing up to say "hello" to her brother than the murals.

A closeup.
Then, before we reached the doors leading outside to the Trails West area, we passed through the Thunder Gallery, where you are invited to dress up in cowboy clothes and try sitting astride the saddle of a replica horse. I even climbed on myself, just to show Vivi that it was okay and she needn't be scared!

Thems the rules.

Vivi was a little cautious - I think she was having flashbacks of the Griffith Pony Rides we did ten days ago.
Outside is even more fun, in my estimation. For one, they have a demonstration on how to pan for gold! But it's only offered to the public on weekends. Besides that, though, the whole outdoor patio was a neat manmade microcosm of different western regions, including mountains, deserts, and plains. I loved how the placards described how the terrain affected the paths and lives of the people of the nineteenth century. With all of our modern amenities, it can be hard to imagine that people would have to choose how they were going to cross a mountain range, or where they were going to find a source of water. Case in point - the landscape recreation includes a manmade waterfall! These days we don't have to search for water, heck, we can just install a waterfall just about anywhere!

Standing on the bridge, watching the water flow from the waterfall under the bridge.

The shallow pool at the end of the waterfall.

Some of the very realistic looking rock formation replicas.

The informative placard on the Mountains region. I grew up very close to the Cascades up in Washington, and we learned a lot about Lewis and Clark, as their trail's end is up in that area.
Back inside, we wandered through the rest of the lower level. There is, notably, a Family Discovery Gallery, where everything is hands-on, and kids are encouraged to use dress-up, and different play objects such as dishes and desks, to step into the lives of a family of Chinese immigrants - the See family - in the late 1930's.

Heading in, the gallery is divided into a porch, a kitchen, an office, a bedroom, and a restaurant.
(Maybe more, but that's what I remember.)

There are traditional masks hanging in the bedroom area.
We did take in the rest of the lower level, which flows from room to room in a U-shaped path with hardly any partitioning, but it is definitely grouped into distinct areas. Like there is a Colt Gallery with handguns on display, there is a Saloon gallery sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and there is a law and order section with this very cool collection of badges:

Vivi is looking at a recreation of the shoot out at the OK Corral, and the Saloon gallery is in the background.
I didn't get too many awesome pictures, due to the fact that the galleries are fairly dim, and I can't hold my cellphone camera perfectly still when I'm holding a squirmy baby.

She kept running around this statue and looks pretty blurry in all my pictures.

Can you see the cornet on the left-hand side, there?

An actual stagecoach.

Looking across the Journeys gallery.

This taxidermy bison has very realistic glass eyes, and, projected on the wall behind it, is footage of actual bison running. The whole thing scared the daylights out of poor Vivi, who had to hide behind me and the stroller!

Outdoors is nice too. Vivi found some benches, built next to square planters, that were tons of fun to run on.

All in all a lovely place for a family outing. There is also a museum store and cafe, to make a day of it. And there are a lot of different events that happen, (including the Sizzling Summer Nights,) so check the website! The one coming up the soonest is this Saturday: the Kickoff Celebration for Latino Heritage Month at the Autry. To see the schedule, click here.

Go visit The Autry, and don't wait seven years like I did!

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