Thursday, February 12, 2009

Getting A Close-Up View of the American West

It turned into quite the Gene Autry weekend for us: On Sunday night, Maria and I got a sitter for the Blogger Preschooler and headed to the Staples Center, where we attended the Grammys. Among the Lifetime Achievement Award winners: The late Autry, "America's greatest singing cowboy."

The day before, the three of us checked out the Autry National Center of the American West in Griffith Park. (You may recall that admission was free this weekend for anyone with a Bank of America card.)

The museum was brimming with activity, as an auction of western-themed art was going on at its entrance. But inside, the museum wasn't too packed as we checked out the various exhibits.

Upstairs, one exhibit re-created a western movie set -- and in one corner, children could climb on a saddle in front of a blue screen and see themselves transposed onto old movie footage.

The section devoted to early-20th century western stage shows included memorabilia from the likes of Buffalo Bill.

And, of course, some Gene Autry memorabilia.

Downstairs, exhibits centered on the late 19th century rise of the west, including a restored stagecoach... and this life-size staged buffalo.

Other sites included a group of mannequins re-enacting the shootout at the OK Corral.

The real treat for Evan, however, was the Family Discovery Gallery, a hands-on display of what life was like for a Chinese American family in the 1930s. Evan was specifically interested in the re-creation of the family's restaurant (above), and spent about 45 minutes pretending to run the operation.

The current rotating exhibit, "BOLD CABALLEROS Y NOBLE BANDIDAS," looks at the world of stories, folktales and art related to bandits "who stand for social justice."

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