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Feb 23rd
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Home Places to Visit Museums Repair of Southwest Museum’s Caracol Tower On Track

Repair of Southwest Museum’s Caracol Tower On Track

Facility Suffered Severe Damage During Los Angeles’ 1994 Northridge Earthquake

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As 2008 comes to a close, we wanted to update our readers on the progress to preserve and renovate the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, one of the West's great museum resources of American Indian artifacts, and a facility with a great future ahead of it.

In October, work began on restoring and upgrading the museum's centerpiece, the Caracol Tower, which sustained serious damage during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and had suffered from decades of deferred maintenance.

On track to be completed in February 2009, the repair work to the tower includes installing a new roof and drain system, re-plastering the exterior and interior surfaces, sealing cracks using epoxy injection, and applying a new coat of paint. A major goal of this work is to ensure that the building envelope is secured and waterproofed.

"We are excited to see construction move forward on the landmark Caracol Tower," said, John L. Gray, President and CEO of the Autry National Center. "Repairing this tower is integral to the Autry's comprehensive plan for restoring the Southwest Museum so that it can continue as a cultural and educational destination at this historic site."

The Autry has also upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, made urgent electrical upgrades, and installed new outdoor lighting and signage. The preservation consultant team is being led by the renowned historic architect Brenda Levin, FAIA, who is serving as project principal.

The project Funding for the construction comes from a combination of grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Cultural and Historic Endowment (CCHE) and is expected to be completed in February 2009.

Before the Southwest's museum merger with the Autry, the deterioration of the Southwest Museum building and the inadequate storage facilities had damaged some of the collection, while other artifacts were put at substantial risk.

To date, the Autry National Center has invested more than $7 million on conservation efforts to save the collection and repair all of the Southwest Museum buildings. These efforts include moving over 225,000 artifacts out of the Caracol Tower and in to the museum's galleries for repair and re-housing.

The Southwest Museum, which marked its 100th anniversary in 2007, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It holds one of the nation's most significant artifact, library, and archive collections relating to the American Indian.

In 2012, the Southwest Museum will re-open as the Southwest Museum Education and Cultural Center and house exhibitions of Native American artifacts from the Southwest Collection in two galleries, as well as complementary educational and cultural uses consistent with founder Charles Lummis' belief that all cultures of the Southwest need to be understood, respected, and appreciated.

The galleries at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian currently are closed to the public, however, the Museum Store is open on Saturdays and Sundays and the museum offers programs and events.

For example, every second Saturday of the month the Southwest Museum introduces a new artist and his or her works. Famiies are encouraged to bring the kids for ‘StoryTime' and hands-on activities in Let's Make History and Kit and Kaboodle. In January and February 2009, the lecture series ‘A View From the Braun' focuses on Native American cultures. Admission and parking are free.

The Southwest Museum holds one of the nation's most important museum, library, and archive collections related to the American Indian. In addition, it has extensive holdings of pre-Hispanic, Spanish colonial, Latino, and Western American art and artifacts.

It has supported research, publications, exhibitions, and other educational activities to advance the public's understanding and appreciation of the Americas, with particular emphasis on the western United States and Mesoamerica.

The Southwest Museum is located at 234 Museum Drive in Mt. Washington and is easily accessible via the Metro Rail Gold Line, which stops directly across from the museum.

For more information, visit the Autry National Center Web site at

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