The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 606
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606 Southwestern Historical Quarterly April
books on various aspects of the American West. Among the first were publica-
tions on Remington and Russell, by Peter H. Hassrick and Frederic G. Renner,
respectively; the Canadian artist Paul Kane by J. Russell Harper, Cities of the
American West by John W. Reps, and The Wzld West Shows by Don Russell, just to
name a few.
Since then, American western art has become even more popular, making
museums that had been in the business-such as the Gilcrease Museum in
Tulsa-better known and spawning new ones such as the National Cowboy Hall
of Fame in Oklahoma City, the Eiteljorg Museum of the American Indian and
Western Art in Indianapolis, the Rockwell Museum in Corning, N.Y., the Whit-
ney Gallery of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, and, finally,
in 1988, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles. Within a few
years, these and other museums were sponsoring exhibitions and publications,
and the public seemed to develop an insatiable appetite for the subject, if one
judges by the spate of books, catalogues, exhibitions, and public television and
cable shows that followed.
One might assume that an institution named after the world-famous cowboy
singer and B-movie actor, owner of the California Angels baseball team, and,
later, philanthropist from Tioga, Texas, would be about its major benefactor,
Gene Autry. It well could have been, for an exhibition on Autry's lengthy career
as one of the most popular singers and movie stars in the country, not to men-
tion his equally successful years as a Southern California businessman involved
in radio stations and major league baseball, would be fascinating. But when he
chose to establish a museum about his beloved West, he allowed the curators
and specialists to roam broadly in designing it. It became a place "where objects
and art works would be the central feature describing the region we think of as
the West, from prehistoric roots to the present," recalled James H. Nottage, vice
president and chief curator of the museum (Foreword). In that process lies the
inspiration for West-Fever. After developing a story line and acquiring hundreds
of objects and paintings, the curators puzzled about the context for the muse-
um, about its point of view, for everyone knows that the story of any object
depends upon perspective, upon who is telling the story. One of the cautions
that Donald E. Worcester, my major professor, offered in a historiography class
all those years ago was, "there is nothing so mute as a fact. It must be interpret-
ed." The same goes for objects. Was the Anglo-American perspective appropriate
for the artifacts of a once-Mexican state that, after an interlude of more than a
century and a half, is regaining much of its Hispanic character? Or, should the
perspective be that of the first residents, the Indians?
As the thinking goes on, the museum's invitation to noted western historian
Brian W. Dippie to offer his thoughts on a collection that now numbers more
than forty thousand objects resulted in this extended essay. Dippie, who has writ-
ten broadly about the West, from the "vanishing" Indian to George Catlin to
George Armstrong Custer, begins by asking how one might honor a star of
Autry's significance. Would his preserved home, complete with personal items
arranged just as he left them, suffice? Perhaps, but Dippie sees more accurately
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/684/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.