A museum’s collection is like an iceberg- most of it isn’t visible. For every painting hanging on a wall or mummy on display, there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other works in storage, rarely seeing the light of day.
That’s the case in spades with Los Angeles’ Natural History Museum, an institution with 35 million different objects in its collection. 35 million different objects! They range from dinosaur bones wrestled from the earth in Asia to exquisite Mayan artworks crafted in southern Mexico. But the Natural History Museum also has lots of items and that come from far closer to home and relate directly to Los Angeles’ natural and cultural history.
This summer some of those L.A. items will be brought out of vaults and storage facilities and be put on permanent exhibit in the “Becoming Los Angeles” hall, a 14,000 square-foot space that will display some of the most precious and fascinating L.A.-related items in the museum’s vast collections. It will be an eclectic bunch of stuff, from ancient Native American jewelry, to religious items from the Mission era, to pieces that reflect L.A.’s cinema history, like the suit Charlie Chaplin wore in the movie “City Lights.”
Together, the Natural History Museum hopes the items will tell visitors about the wide sweep of the city’s history and highlight the forces that created modern-day Los Angeles.
Since the Natural History Museum is, well, a natural history museum many of the exhibits will also depict how human beings changed the very ecosystem of L.A. They often did that by introducing animal and plant species that aren’t native to the region, from small cows brought by the Spaniards to the palm trees that grace the boulevards of Beverly Hills.
Check out some of the behind-the-scenes work going on at the Natural History Museum as staff races to complete the exhibition in time for its opening in July. And listen here for more on Which Way, LA?