The project is a major renovation and re-installation of first-floor galleries and outdoor areas into interactive exhibitions and public spaces housed within the existing museum footprint. The renovation will highlight the history and culture of Native peoples and include two dedicated California Indian galleries and an indigenous teaching garden with bioregions and interpretive centers. The new spaces are designed to educate students and visitors alike.

The project is a major renovation and re-installation of first-floor galleries and outdoor areas into interactive exhibitions and public spaces housed within the existing museum footprint. The renovation will highlight the history and culture of Native peoples and include two dedicated California Indian galleries and an indigenous teaching garden with bioregions and interpretive centers. The new spaces are designed to educate students and visitors alike.

The multi-year project will be devoted to the Indigenous peoples of California, their relationship to the natural environment, and key resource stewardship practices they have employed in sustaining their traditions and lifeways. Through the Native California galleries and garden, visitors to the Autry will learn about historical and contemporary ecological issues that impact and, in some cases, threaten the way we live. Visitors will also learn how Native communities developed systems and techniques dedicated to maintaining bothplant and animal species on which their cultures often depend.

“The new galleries will teach our visitors how our Native vision has historically integrated Indigenous values, lifeways, and the natural environment, and will showcase our outstanding collection within these contexts,” said Marshall McKay, Autry Board Chairman and Chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. 

The first gallery will house the long-term exhibition First Californians, where visitors will come to understand how nature is weaved into the lifeways and ceremonial traditions of California Indians. It will look at Native communities and cultures through both thematic and regional perspectives and showcase an important portion of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection.

Environmental education continues in the California Native Teaching Garden,where an existing outdoor area will be converted to showcase the various bioregions and flora depicted in First Californians. A water component will replicate the journey of a river from its mountain source to a pool that depicts riparian ecosystems in lower woodlands and coastal marshes. Along the way, visitors will encounter plants native to coniferous forests, mountain meadows, valley grasslands, and alluvial fans, as well as woodlands and marshes—all habitats in which Native cultures traditionally live.

The third major feature of this project is a gallery that will house Dreamers, Doctors, Basket weavers. This gallery rounds out the representation of Native California by focusing on the foothills and coastal woodlands in the state’s central region. Organized around the Autry’s extensive California Indian collections, part of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, the exhibition looks at Indian culture through the lives of two important twentieth-century Pomo women, Mabel McKay and Essie Parish, both of whom were “doctors” working in traditional methods. McKay was also a renowned basket weaver, and both were key community leaders who helped sustain the lifeways and traditions among the Pomo and other Native California peoples.