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President of the Autry museums to retire

March 8, 2010 |  7:05 pm

Gray  The president of the Autry National Center of the American West, John L. Gray, is retiring from the job he has held for 11 years.

Gray has presided over an era of many changes for the Autry, including its merger with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in 2003.  

A former federal administrator and bank executive, Gray said one of his attractions to the Autry's collection was that  "the museum had the potential to look at people’s identity, how they could see themselves as Westerners and to help them learn through history."

Gray’s tenure was often fraught with conflict about the Southwest Museum, which struggled to support itself as an independent institution. He views the merger as a success. For the complete story on Gray's retirement, click here.  


Above: John L. Gray and Linda Strauss of the umbrella Autry National Center, inspect the Southwest Museum's textile collection in 2005 Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (5)

As a member, volunteer & docent at the SWM (Southwest Museum) since 1985 I have been witness to two John Grays; the public statement man & the private off the record one. In public statements like those in the accompanying story there is heartfelt support for the Autry & it's vision of Convergence & creating a larger narrative of the American West. I feel he firmly believes this & it is a goal worth pursuing. Privately though, through remarks made at docent meetings over the years, he has supported the vision that he & others in the LA community created in the Human Rights Commission public hearings of 2006. That vision was of a revitalized SWM that would be home to several exhibition halls, a Native American cultural center & educational facilities run in tandem with the community college district. Mr. Gray has also mentioned that the SWM site would have to be subsidized in some fashion. It is my opinion & feeling that on some level he might be concerned that the Autry has not acted openly & honorably towards their commitment to the SWM's future validity both as a major cultural landmark & destination in So. Cal. & as a traditional site dedicated to Native cultures. He has seemed to hint that the membership of the Autry & the board of trustees in particular would refuse to dedicate their own monies to the restoration & promotion of the site. The monies mentioned in the accompanying article are nearly all public funds. One hopes that Mr. Gray & the Autry will do the right thing, honor their agreements, & present a plan for the future that includes a vital role for the SWM.

One of the things Mr. John Gray is superb at is telling “tall tales”. But ETHICS he is desperately in need of.

Ease up on the ampers&, MW. I'm sorry, but it had to be said. Stuff like this keeps me up nights.

The "Friends" of the Southwest Museum (an absurdly misleading name, for the record) really don't get it.

1) The Southwest Museum has one of the more comprehensive and important collections of Native American artifacts in the nation, & the primary goal of a Museum with such a significant collection is to preserve and display the collection.
2) (a) The Southwest Museum's facilities are inadequate for displaying even a tiny fraction of the Museum's collections - a problem which renovation can only improve so much, and (b) the (for years) unsightly surrounding neighborhood coupled with difficult car access dissuades visitation.

The Friends of the Southwest Museum (and Councilman Huizar) are no friends of the Southwest Museum - they are dedicated to guaranteeing the Museum's continued operation as a method of bringing revenue to their neighborhood. The Collection isn't and never has been one of their concerns, and thus, neither has been the future of the Museum.

The financially irresponsible guarantees required by Huizar and the "Friends" community group has put the future of the Mount Washintgon site in serious jeopardy, torpedoing the Autry's attempts to keep the site open in a new and more realistic capacity.

Luckily, the Collection is in good hands now. If the site falls, the "Friends" will be responsible for the SWM's demise. An ironically fitting end to a sad saga.

Curious, this sounds familiar . . . vaguely familiar.


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