The historic Museum sitting over the Monterey Hills.
What does one say about a museum that…frankly, it can take you all of fifteen minutes to go through?
The Southwest Museum of the American Indian (originally, just the Southwest Museum) was built in 1914 as the pre-eminent Western Heritage Museum in the area. It was built in a beautiful structure looking out high over Monterey Hills off the old 110 Freeway, and is a part of the National Register of Historic places.
And then…it closed shop.
Why, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s no longer the only Museum of Western Heritage in the area, and that the other one is bigger, a little more modern and a little easier to get to.
Point is, for a good stretch of time, it was closed.
And then it was opened again, acquired…by that other Western Heritage Museum.
So now, it sits where it’s always sat, though primarily acting as a research center. Really, there are only two exhibits on display at any given time, when you can get in. There is a main hall with a lovely collection of Native pottery. Then there is the introductory hall, which gives you a history of the Museum itself.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s only open one day a week?
And that getting into it, can be a bit…interesting.
That’s one of the entrances right there. Go inside, and walk what feels to be the length of half a football field…a walk that’s even a little creepy in the daytime so that you can get to the Elevator.
Or, you can go up this trail…almost straight ninety degrees up the trail till you arrive, I imagine somewhat the worse for wear at the Museums’ door.
Or, you can do what I was supposed to do, drive up the trail to the left, on up to the free Parking just up and above the museum…and do it that way.
Look, I won’t want to get into the middle of what appears to be an active discussion about the future of the Southwest Museum, but here goes anyway.
It probably should be retired…as a Museum. Yes. There I said it.
As a museum though, just as a Museum.
I think it you want to keep the researchers working up there, then that is a lovely spot to work. If you want to allow Lectures and Guest Speakers up there, then that’s just fine. But as a museum space, as it is now? Too small. Not enough space to move around. There’s not enough space to keep stuff.
But the Building still holds value. Great value. People should still be allowed to visit. To take in the views. Maybe even have a picnic up there. There’s room after all. And maybe the Museum can do this more than one day a week. I don’t know. But right now, the way it’s configured, it’s almost as though they don’t want any visitors.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Let me emphasize. Open one day a week (Saturday) for a narrow time window. It’s free to get in and…
PARKING: …and so is the parking, but it’s a little hard to find.
You can park down on the street, and take the creepy but ornate tunnel (See above) on in, but it’s easier to use their Parking Lot up above the Museum.
Southwest Museum of the American Indian
234 Museum Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Tel: (323) 667-2000
Saturday only 10:00am-4:00pm