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Los Angeles' Southwest Museum is an artifact worth saving

Closed since 2006, its world-class collection of Native American art lies mostly in storage.

July 01, 2011|Hector Tobar

But Cumming and other Autry officials have said the Southwest Museum's location in northeast Los Angeles can't bring crowds big enough to pay for it to once again be a first-class museum.

"There has to be an understanding of what the realities are," Cumming said.

Others disagree, including City Councilmen Jose Huizar and Ed Reyes, who represent the districts that are home to the museum and the communities surrounding it.

"So much has been invested in other icons like Griffith Park Observatory and the Getty," Councilman Reyes said. "Why should the Southwest Museum be treated any differently?"

It seems to me that what the Southwest Museum needs today is a few people like Lummis himself. He was a dreamer who was also, by all accounts, a brilliant fundraiser.

Joe Bollert, director of the Autry's Southwest Museum Project, is well-versed on the subject.

"He never had much money," Bollert told me, as we stood in the Southwest Museum's Braun Research Library, examining Lummis' diaries and journals. "But he knew how to find people who did."

Lummis also saw value and worth in places, people and things when others didn't. Today, his old museum, a gem of Los Angeles, needs us to believe in it as much as he did.

Photos: The Southwest Museum

hector.tobar@latimes.com

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