What do you think of when the word “Western” comes to mind? Do you think of cowboys and Indians or maybe some of the TV shows like “Gunsmoke” or “The Lone Ranger.” Well, the Autry Museum celebrates that – and more.

Gene Autry was a famous cowboy star from the 1930-60’s. His museum, built to help people understand the American West, has an extensive collection of painting including Remingtons, Russels and Morans as well as numerous displays about life in the West.

Sections of the museum are dedicated to haring stories and experiences of the diverse people that built the West. In the Trails West section kids can pan for gold. They also have several stagecoaches, saloons and saddles – some that you can even get on and ride. In the Imagination Gallery you can dress up and be filmed in an actual western setting against a green screen. The Family Discovery Galley on the lower level has a special section devoted to the Asian population of the 1930’s who helped grow the West and often receive little credit for such. Here kids can try on traditional clothing and serve “meals” at a Chinese restaurant. Looking at the Cowboy exhibit, I learned about the first African American soldier to be falsely court martialed and was reintroduced to many of the movie legends as Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson not to mention Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Currently, they have two special temporary exhibits featured. The first is Hopi Indian and Katsina Dolls, which explores the life of the Indian tribe and relationship to the spirit dolls. The second is Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic that focuses on how the Jewish population helped build Los Angeles and the West. I was a bit surprised at the latter, but it makes sense especially since the first police chief of Los Angeles was Jewish. Contrary to popular myth they did a lot more than own banks and Hollywood studios. Both of these exhibits run through January 5, 2014 and are well worth seeing. Another special collection is the Colt Revolver in the American West.

The museum is currently adding more exhibits as we write. A new gallery of art, the Irene Helen Jones Parks Gallery, opens June 2013. Future events include Western Frontiers: Stories of Fact and Fiction opening July 27, 2013 as wells as Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl. An American Indian Arts Marketplace will be held November 9-10, 2013, where handmade rugs and other articles can be bought.

The Café and gift shop, across from entrance are open to anyone. The shop has a huge selection of handmade Indian jewelry, belts and other novelty items.

Autry Museum
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA
Cost: $10 with discounts for veterans, students and seniors.