Is It Any Good?

The history of Los Angeles at the Natural History Museum.

To understand Los Angeles, to get why it’s as weird as it can be, you really need to go back to the beginning. Fortunately, there’s now a Exhibit at the Natural History Museum that can help explain some of it.

Becoming L.A. is the history of Los Angeles, from ancient times to modern. It’s basically an anthropological study of the city from the era of the Cavemen, through the expansions of the Missions, on through to the age of O.J. and Al Cowling.

The principal visual motif is a ribbon winding its way across the ceiling, through the various eras. You stop and take a look at some of the earlier movers and shakers of the area, when very, very familiar names like: Pico, Doheny and Brand.

Granted, there is an unfortunate side step into the history of cow poop and fertilizer that I could have done without.  At least it’s sciencey, but I would have rather we concentrated on something else…like say, more about William Mulholland and the rape of the Owens Valley.

Things start to crystalize as you round the corner for the final stretch of the exhibit, and you see a decently sized mock up of Los Angeles in the 1920s. Now the city starts to look like the city you know. I swear I spent most of my time trying to find the parts of the city I know about in the here and now, like Philippe’s or where the Empress Pavilion was. If you get lost, there are a bunch of iPad displays encircling the model, that will point out the various highlights.

Truth be told, the most depressing part of the exhibition comes as we draw closer and closer to our own era, past the era of Movie stars and a burgeoning film industry, on to the Riots, the racial tensions, and the racial and gender breakthroughs that happened in our city. Becoming L.A. teaches us that we’ve made a lot of progress in this city, but it also shows us we’ve got a long, long, LONG way to go.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Like with everything else in the Natural History Museum, you gotta pay to get in here, thus you should probably know how much tickets costs before going in.

Members and Children 2 and under are FREE
Children 3-12 are $5.00
Youth 13-17 are $9.00
College Students with ID still apparently count as Youth are charged $9.00
Seniors (62 and over) are also Youth: $9.00
Adults (aka the rest of us) are $12.00


PARKING: Is widely available in one of the two open air lots at Exhibition Park. One is hugged up next to the Natural History Museum itself, and another is right across from the California Science Center and the California African-American Museum.

But…for once, the Natural History Museum joints the slender ranks of place with information about Parking on their website. Thus, I will quote them directly:

Parking is available for $10 (cash or credit card) in the Museum’s Car Park on Exposition Blvd. and Bill Robertson Lane. If the Car Park is full, patrolled lots are also available directly across from the Museum on Bill Robertson Lane for $10 (cash only), as well as in lots throughout Exposition Park.


Parking rates and availability may vary during special events in Exposition Park. NHM has designated parking during USC games.


Becoming L.A.
Natural History Museum
900 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Tel: (213) 763-3466

Daily 9:30 am – 5 pm