'Becoming Los Angeles' exhibit at Natural History Museum opens today to everyone

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

The Natural History Museums’s permanent exhibition, Becoming Los Angeles, opens to the public July 14, 2013.

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Museum patrons can follow a sweeping ceiling display to the various light points that highlight artifacts throughout the Natural History Museum's new exhibit, "Becoming Los Angeles."

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

A team of City Planning Department model makers, drafters and architects surveyed downtown Los Angeles between 1938 and 1940 and built a model, of which this is a small part, at the Natural History Museum's new exhibit, "Becoming Los Angeles," opening July 14, 2013.

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

Souvenir water that was bottled on November 5, 1913, from the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

The thousands of cattle that roamed freely and grazed throughout the Los Angeles basin left a lasting impact on the natural environment.

Becoming LA Exhibit

Todd Johnson/KPCC

The Grizzly Bear posed a threat to early Los Angeles rachos and to the growing human population. Admired and feared for its strength, the Grizzly earned a place on California’s state flag, but was ultimately hunted to extinction.


There aren’t many places where you’ll find a 1,000-year-old  ax head sharing the same exhibit with a 1950s Stratocaster electric guitar and a McDonnell Douglas airplane engine.

But at the “Becoming Los Angeles” exhibit — which opens Sunday, July 14, at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles — visitors learn that each item shared a role in shaping the city we know today.

"What has been most interesting is the combination of exhibits,  ... things that I think are positive but also things that are ignoble," Lynette Sim of Culver City said, referring  to a display of actual travel trunks Japanese people were allowed to take with them to relocation centers during World War II. 

Torrance resident Anna Wheeler, 14,  visited the gallery with her friend Erin Nebres, 14, of Carson. Both girls said that while portions of the exhibits underscored what they learned while studying California history in grade school, the L.A.-specific displays gave them fresh insight to the City of Angels. 

" I don’t remember actually learning about L.A.  itself," Wheeler said. "We just learned more about the broader picture of California, so it’s nice learning about somewhere where you live near." 

The 14,000-square-foot exhibit encourages visitors to interact with multi-media displays set around local artifacts that include the cross from Mission San Gabriel, a wooden oil well pump from the 1920s and Walt Disney’s 1923 animation stand, on which he made the film “Steamboat Willie,” which introduced the world to Mickey Mouse in 1928. 

Be sure to tune in to Take Two on Monday, July 15, for a full account of the exhibit; you'll also be able to read about it on Take Two's program page.

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