We have a museum here in Southern California that has had a heck of a time trying to figure out what it wants to be, or who it wants to appeal to. Western movie star and businessman Gene Autry started it way back in 1988. His vision then was to establish a museum which would honor and showcase the history and culture of the American West. The museum would devote itself to "cowboy movie" heroes and memorabilia (with a focus on Gene Autry, of course) as well as telling the true history of the American Wild West. A good concept coupled with the perfect location - Los Angeles.
It was a wonderful museum when it started, then Mr. Autry died and it has been slipping into the chasms of multicultural correctness, revisionist history, and modern liberal sensibilities ever since. First it was called the Gene Autry Museum. Then it was the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. Then they dropped Gene's first name and it became The Autry Western Heritage Museum. Then Autry was dropped for a short time and it was simply the Western Heritage Museum. Now it is the Autry National Center. I wouldn't be too surprised if sometime soon the name will be changed to The People's Cultural Diversity Center for the Study of Western Revisionist History.
Now I read in the Los Angeles Times that the museum will be undergoing a total transformation in its historical look. The existing building, with its white stucco, red titles and bell tower in the traditional California Spanish Mission style will be changed in favor of new architecture and colors "meant to evoke the West's most harmonious constant: the natural landscape." The paper showed an artist's rendering of it and guess what? It looks like just another nondescript contemporary office building with no style and no sense of history whatsoever, let alone Western.
In place of the original, historic Mission belfry, a new 70-foot tower with steel ribs and long vertical ribbons of curved translucent glass will rise up into the sky. Animated wild horses will be galloping across a screen 100 feet long and 15 feet high on the outside back wall facing the Golden State Freeway. It's basically another big flat-screen television intruding on the landscape, blazing lights into the night sky not unlike the bawdy Ginza in Tokyo or the glitter of Times Square in New York. Using this state of the art technology is about as far from preserving history as a history museum could possibly get!
The renovation is expected to begin this year and be finished for a reopening in 2011. A fund raising campaign is currently underway to collect $185 million - $85 million for endowment and operation expenses and $100 million to cover construction costs of the new ugly facility. The project will be done in two phases: first will be renovation and expansion of the museum, and second will be construction of a new 50,000 square foot structure for offices and storage with parking underneath.
John Gray, President of the Aurty National Center, said that the museum's "educational mission" dictated the demise of its mission-like appearance. He was quoted as saying, "To tell everyone's story in the most respectful way, we could not have a building that referenced one particular culture or one specific time in the American West." What a load of hogwash! Talk about political correctness meets bureaucratic empire-building.
Gray goes on to say that "the planning process included enormous outreach to local and national Native Americans." I'm sure that before they're through, the "outreach" will also include political agendas of Mexican, Chinese, African-Americans, and other minority action groups from coast to coast. Let's not leave anyone out. Don't want to offend anyone, do we?
Mark my words - A museum started by a dedicated white guy to honor all of the American West will be morphed into a museum to honor every single culture in the world with the exception of the white European guys. Oh, they'll be depicted, alright, but in a light far from honorable, you can be sure.
That's what "cultural diversity," as it exists today, really is all about - the story of how the bad white guys screwed over the poor people of color throughout history. The cultural elitists will never admit it, but that's what it is and that's what is taught in our public schools, universities and history museums throughout the country. Complete revisionism.
Museums, by definition, should be places to protect and preserve our past, not reflect current social mores or placate contemporary utopian wishful thinking. When we tamper with history, altering what was, we begin to lose the very truth of it all. History should never be a living work in progress, changeable from generation to generation depending on their point of view. History is what it is, for better or worse. Learn from it, improve on it, but never attempt to alter it.
The American West holds many stories, not least of all the tales of American heroes like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, and John C. Fremont. And yes, even movie cowboy heroes like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne. Let's not lose any more American heroes. We can't afford it.
Oh, how I wish Gene was back in the saddle again!