Autry National Center: Institute for the Study of the American West

The Braun Research Library was established more than one hundred years ago as part of the Southwest Museum (founded in 1903, it was the first museum in Los Angeles.)  The Library’s collections provide a historical, social, and cultural context for the artifact and archival collections of both the Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection and the broader mission of the Autry National Center.

Opened in 1995, the Autry Library encourages study and research of the American West and its diverse peoples.  The Autry Library collects books, serials, sound recordings, and printed materials related to the history, geography, fine arts, and material, popular, and consumer culture of the American West.  Areas of strength include personal accounts of pioneer and cowboy life; ranching; tourism; women in the West; cowboy dress and equipment; Western literature, music, radio, television, and film history; and popular Western imagery.

The Braun Library’s holdings, including its special collections and research material, provides for the study of the music, art, literature, history, culture, and archaeology of the Native peoples of the Americas.  The collection includes approximately 50,000 books and serials, 2,000 sound recordings, 3,000 maps, more than 147,000 historic photographs, 3,000 works of art on paper, and 700 manuscript collections. 

Ethnomusicologists are likely to be most interested in the sound recording collections at the Braun Library.  These recordings include the Charles F. Lummis collection.  This collection consists of more than 700 cylinder recordings of Mexican American and Native American songs.  Recorded by Lummis between 1895 and 1912 in the Southern California area, they are believed to be the first recordings of Mexican American folk songs in California. 

UCLA students and graduates might be interested to know that UCLA Ethnomusicology graduate Ralph Heidsiek (1966) worked with the Braun's aluminum disc collection of Luiseño recordings.  His dissertation is entitled, Music of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California : a study of music in Indian culture with relation to a program in music education.

The Autry has a number of audio samples on their website as part of their Collections Online.

Spanish Songs of Old California: Introduction

Spanish Songs of Old California: The Singers

Spanish Songs of Old California: The Collection

Spanish Songs of Old California: Preservation

Opera Collection Spotlight: American Indian Themes in Music

Opera Collection Spotlight: Wax Cylinder Recordings in the Braun Research Library

Opera Collection Spotlight: Ephemera Collection in the Braun Research Library

Opera Collection Spotlight: The Dodge City Cowboy Band

Opera Collection Spotlight:  Denver's Tabor Grand Opera House

Opera Collection Spotlight: Puccini's American West in Three Acts

To learn more about the sound recordings and music at the Braun Research Library, which also include recordings by Josephine Cook, Walter McClintock and Frances Densmore, read my interview with Kim Walters, Ahmanson Curator of Native American History and Culture.


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