Comments from John Gray to the Mt. Washington Association Meeting
John Gray, CEO of the Autry National Center, attended the meeting and spoke in response to rumors that had circulated verbally and via email. He wanted to make it clear that the Autry National Center was not closing the Southwest Museum permanently. Instead, they have received a matching grant of $936,000 to create a weatherproof envelope for the external walls and to repair water damage. They are now in the process of applying for additional funds to waterproof all windows and doors, repair plumbing and improve their handicapped facilities. Brenda Levin, who did the initial feasibility study, is supervising these renovation efforts, as much is dictated under the building’s historic status.
In July, the conservation project will begin: the artifacts will be moved into the main galleries, be photographed and documented, and finally conserved This conservation project will take place while the work on the external structure is taking place. During that period, the lobby area and shop will be open on the weekends, as well as offering tours to observe the conservation project.
The Southwest Museum will reopen in 2010 for full public access, under a model that will be economically sustainable. It will include exhibits, programming and educational events. And will include storage for artifacts.
Finally, John Gray stressed that this museum owes its existence to its docents and volunteers, as this group, rather than staff, kept the museum open for the last 20 years. These docents are among the most valuable of all the assets of the museum, and they have been offered the opportunity to either give tours at the Griffith Park site during the SW Museum closure, or work with the artifacts at the SW Museum.
Michelle Lewis, VP of the docent group, also spoke. While Michelle is aware not all docents agree with the changes, she does know that the majority of the docents are supportive of this renovation project.