But Finley hardly has just a caretaker's agenda. The coming years are expected to be transformative — and thus potentially risky — for the Autry, which announced in June that it will renovate a Burbank warehouse to store its 500,000-object collection and house a library and work spaces for curators and conservators. Moving those functions will carve out an additional 25,000 square feet of gallery space at the Griffith Park museum, whose lower level will be devoted entirely to the Native American art and artifacts the Autry acquired in its 2003 absorption of the financially exhausted Southwest Museum in Mount Washington.
The timetable calls for achieving all of this by the end of 2013; another major undertaking is finding a nonprofit educational or cultural institution to become the primary tenant at the Southwest Museum, which requires further renovation and is closed.
Finley estimates that his fundraising responsibilities, on top of the $6 million or more in annual operating donations not supplied by Jackie Autry, include at least $25 million for renovations in Burbank, further conservation of the Southwest Museum's collection, and establishing an endowment big enough to bankroll $500,000 or more in expected annual operating costs at the Burbank annex.
He envisions identifying and promoting collection highlights, in hopes of turning them into iconic, must-see attractions. Also on the agenda, Finley says, is the importing of revenue-producing touring exhibitions that aren't necessarily Western-themed but can be augmented with other artifacts and tailored to fit the Autry's mission.
Prospects include a show about the history and properties of gold, organized by New York City's American Museum of Natural History, and another about water, a resource pivotal to the West's past and future.
Among the first equipment purchases of Finley's tenure were automatic electronic counters that keep track of how many people enter each exhibit.
"Being a museum president is being part P.T. Barnum," says Finley, who recently bought a cowboy hat and bolo tie he planned to wear for the first time at the Autry's annual fundraising gala on Oct. 2, Jackie Autry's 69th birthday. "There needs to be a degree of showmanship."
As for those do-nothing O.K. Corral gunfighters, their turf will become Indian territory under the renovation plan. Finley says they'll probably get to remain for now. The sooner he succeeds in raising the money to start renovating, the sooner the Autry's new sheriff can run his least favorite exhibit out of town.