For Wild West and American history enthusiasts, the Autry is a gem of a museum. Last week Brianne and I ventured to Griffith Park to see an exhibit that the Autry is showcasing entitled Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West. Being more of an art museum fan, I was curious to see a history exhibit.
It was fun to see Brianne in her natural habitat. As for me, I always have appreciated history but never had the opportunity to delve deep into it and experience the subject outside of the education system. The exhibit impressed me on many levels. The curators chose to use the Civil War as the backdrop in explaining westward expansion as both a political and cultural movement. Each section of the exhibit represented a different time period in the expansion in relation to the parties it affected. For instance, it touched upon westward expansion due to the war through the eyes of Native Americans, Chinese Americans, African Americans, and women. Anything to illuminate experiences other than a dead white dude’s and I am hooked.
I was truly impressed with the use of multimedia in this exhibition. Museums are incorporating all sorts of technology and digital stimulus, creating a sense of a production being put on. This particular exhibit had stations with small projectors displaying a video onto a scrap of fabric. To activate the video, the guest touches an old daguerreotype and keeps their hand on it until the feed ends. This interactive type of learning creates a sense of collaboration wherein the viewer has to seek out information instead of just absorbing it from the surrounding artifacts.
Amidst the photographs, weapons, books, and clothing on display, my favorite area was the suffragette era. This section focused on artifacts from the suffrage movement such as “Votes for Women” sashes, polling boxes, and articles of clothing worn by women of this era. The words of these women really resonate with me and the idea of women’s rights is one very important to me. So I enjoyed the topic of Civil War through the lens of women’s rights, feminism, and the suffragette movement.
There is much more to be seen at the Autry. We also saw an exhibit on contemporary paintings and art inspired by the American West with subjects such as vast western landscapes, Native American traditions, and more. Around the museum grounds, there are murals dedicated to the American West from the early days of settlement to the great cowboy films. Another exhibit I enjoyed was about film westerns and the social and economic representation of Westerns. Everything from Bonanza to The Lone Ranger was on display. As a film fan, this was a really fun room to walk around.
Other exhibitions include the Community Gallery, which was a room designed like a town square with each building representing a different part of an old west community.
Prior to visiting the museum, we ate at Black Cow Cafe in Downtown Montrose. The wait was long but the food was delicious, and the location of the place was so cute. It was a little downtown shopping area and we lucked out being there on farmer’s market day (complete with yummy fruit sampling).
Since the suffragette section stuck with me the most, here is a fictional account of a women in the 19th century being introduced to the movement.
The Autry is located right across from the LA Zoo and is $10 for admission. I recommend it for anyone with a strong interest in American Western culture, film, and history!