Becoming L.A. | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Becoming Los Angeles

L.A.'s Story, Reimagined

The Museum’s permanent exhibition, now open, tells the story of how Los Angeles transformed from a tiny pueblo to a sprawling metropolis. It’s a 500-year saga of how L.A. went from cowboys to cars, which battles raged in its backyards, how Hollywood was born, and why an aqueduct changed everything.

The newly reimagined exhibition is an even larger story. The most profound change is the bigger presence of the diverse voices of Angelenos. You’ll see a video in which community leaders share what it means to be an Indigenous Californian living in L.A. today. And at listening stations in the galleries, you'll hear the audio recordings of Museum visitors who came before you, and then you can share your story about what L.A. is to you.

Hear a preview of what Angenelos are saying:

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Second District

 

Collection of voices from the community 1

 

We have also added colorful murals that evoke local issues, including suburban sprawl and water wars, and a one-of-a-kind altar, an homage to L.A. diversity. In Becoming Los Angeles, you’ll discover how people’s actions intersected with nature, and changed a remote frontier to the L.A. we know today.

Altar to el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles by Ofelia Esparza. Image by Deniz Durmus.

Altar to el Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles (the Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels) was constructed by Ofelia Esparza, a master altarista (altar maker), and her daughter, artist Rosanna Esparza Ahrens in their East Los Angeles studio. 

 

Photo courtesy of Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

This City Model of downtown Los Angeles, made from 1938 through 1940, has been outfitted with touch screens, which feature interactive slideshows and narrated stories of downtown landmarks. 

 

Actress Betty Grable's tutu from Diamond Horseshoe (1945)

NHMLA has an extensive collection of Hollywood costumes, props, and other memorabilia, often gifts from the stars themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibition also explores the early days of the automobile industry in Southern California. Watch Historian D.J. Waldie talk about a century of car culture in L.A.