On November 6, 1913, Californians strolled from downtown Los Angeles to the newly minted Exposition Park in a ceremonial procession celebrating a new cultural milestone for the city: the opening of the Museum of History, Science, and Art. A century later, the museum, now known as the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, celebrates its 100 years as a scientific resource while also showcasing a suite of technologically advanced exhibits developed over an eight-year transformation. Proud past and dynamic future meet most prominently in the museum’s original Beaux-Arts-style edifice, now called the 1913 Building. With its handsome rotunda and a façade of neoclassical columns, the building has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places—but its considerable historical legacy may become overshadowed by a more recent addition: the Dinosaur Hall, a 14,000-square-foot interactive exhibit featuring more than 300 fossils and 20 full-body mounts. The mounts include the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, with side-by-side reconstructions of the youngest-known baby skeleton, a rare juvenile skeleton, and the young-adult skeleton of Thomas the T.rex, among the world’s top 10 most complete T.rex skeletons. Designed to let patrons get as near as possible to its specimens, the exhibit gives visitors the experience of walking beneath a dinosaur’s neck or staring straight up at a T.rex’s skull. Next to each mount, murals and graphic displays project how scientists believe the creatures would have looked before time stripped away their reptilian scales and dinosaur friendship bracelets. The museum’s centennial year also includes the midsummer opening of Nature Gardens, a 3.5-acre outdoor habitat teeming with hummingbirds, gardening exhibits, and displays chronicling how the city’s flora has evolved over time. Nature Gardens will eventually frame the museum’s new main entrance, Otis Booth Pavilion, whose glass structure will provide a lasting sanctuary for one of the museum’s oldest displays: a 63-foot, 7,000-pound fin whale specimen. The lush flowers of the outdoor grounds also serve as a habitat for the roaming winged creatures of the seasonal Butterfly Pavilion. The Natural History Museum’s centennial transformation will also include the addition of a permanent exhibit called Becoming L.A., opening in July, 2013. The 14,000-square-foot exhibit will showcase a collection of rare artifacts from the area’s Native American, Spanish Colonial, and Early American eras, as well as objects that reflect more contemporary L.A., such as the animation stand Walt Disney used to film Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse.
The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) creates original exhibits and programs that serve as a catalyst to explore and discuss questions of identity underlying all things handmade. We bridge the gap between local and global diversities and build common ground by making contemporary craft a collective enterprise.
Exhibitions and lifelike dioramas containing more than 150 vehicles sprawl across Petersen Automotive Museum's 300,000-square-foot confines, illustrating the impact of the automobile on American culture. On the first floor, permanent collections elucidate with detailed displays covering the role of the car in Los Angeles and motion picture, the history of alternative power, and the favorite engine sounds of each president. The Hot Wheels Hall of Fame parades more than 1,000 Hot Wheels vehicles, original models, and design sketches. Five galleries on the second floor shelter rotating exhibits, and the third floor's May Family Discovery Center introduces tykes to the fundamental functions of cars with interactive driving stations. Patrons wander among the extensive displays individually or join tours for groups, schools, car clubs, or families of parking cones.
When animals are rescued from dangerous living situations or seized from the hands of smugglers, STAR Eco Station provides second chances at peaceful lives. The facility offers a haven for more than 200 rescued animals and educates the public as an environmental science museum. During public tours, guides lead guests through exhibits of rescued exotic animals, such as parrots, pythons, and wildcats, while explaining the habits, history, and New Year's resolutions of each creature.
The recipient of multiple awards from media and government agencies, STAR Eco Station also provides educational outreach programs to more than 40 California school districts and works in concert with conservation organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Paw Project, and Heal the Bay.
For the staff of Zimmer Children's Museum, teaching kids to express themselves goes hand-in-hand with teaching social values, like community responsibility, cultural sensitivity, and environmental sustainability. The museum sprawls across two floors filled with interactive exhibits, including Rhythms of the World, where kids can explore the sounds of instruments from foreign countries, and the S. Mark Taper Aid and Rescue Center, where they can learn disaster-response skills and climb aboard an authentic Coast Guard raft. At Discovery Airport, they can take the helm of a private plane.
In addition to exhibits, the museum engages small visitors with free programs ranging from story time and open art-studio sessions to the Culture Club: a gathering that introduces kids to international music and food. Seasonal classes taught by arts educators and early-childhood-development specialists promote multi-sensory learning, and the bilingual Jugando Grande program teaches kids how to giggle and play in English and Spanish.
A non-profit venue for and supporter of avant-garde contemporary art, LACE provides an artistic outlet unfettered by the demands of commerce. In its 30-year history, the organization has opened eyeballs to the work of more than 5,000 creative minds, including artists such as Martin Kersels, Nancy Rubins, and Johanna Went. Use your friend-level membership to preview exhibitions—such as the upcoming Los Angeles Goes Live: Exploring a Social History of Performance Art in Southern California, 1970–1983, opening in October 2011—before they're open to the public, giving you a small window of time in which to observe the art before children can attempt to smear it with peanut butter. Members also receive complimentary or reduced admission to special events such as the annual winter fundraiser and the LACE 10K, a steptacular art walk that immerses culture vultures in the greatest art form of them all, physical fitness.
Moving picture began by depicting a horse running at full gallop, and has now evolved into visually stimulating films like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes, which can all be seen at The Hollywood Museum. Visitors meander through a 35,000-square-foot, four-floor maze of more than 10,000 authentic movie props, costumes, and memorabilia. Previously a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the subterranean floor beckons patrons down Hannibal Lecter's The Silence of the Lambs jail corridor into the full cell used in the film, storing spine-tingling treasures such as his muzzling mask. First-floor doors open into Max Factor's restored makeup rooms, which border Cary Grant's Rolls-Royce and The Wizard of Oz's ruby slippers, which tempt visitors to slip them on and teleport to Kansas. Costumes, props, awards, and photos crowd the upper two floors, where Sylvester Stallone's Razzie for Worst Actor of the Century finds a home next to threads that once hugged Marilyn Monroe's legendary curves. In the past, rotating exhibits have showcased such items as a script and autographed poster from Slumdog Millionaire, duds modeled by the quick-stepping cast of High School Musical 3, and rows of awards for TV shows and particularly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious spelling-bee performances.