New Chairman of Petersen Museum Sees Expansion Ahead
Source: The New York Times
A new leadership team plans to make the 20th anniversary of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles more than a milestone on the calendar. The anniversary — in June 2014 — provides an opportunity “to lift the Petersen into global recognition as one of the great automotive museums in the world,” said Peter Mullin, the new chairman of the museum’s board of directors.
The board also elevated the well-known car collectors Bruce Meyer and David Sydorick to vice chairmen. Last summer, the museum hired a new executive director, Terry Karges, who brought professional experience from the entertainment and automotive industries.
Mr. Mullin, 71, is a businessman, philanthropist (he is chairman of the Music Center Foundation) and car collector who has been involved with the Petersen since its founding. The museum was founded by the late Robert Petersen, a pioneer in special-interest magazine publishing, to explore and to preserve Southern California car culture. The museum is on Wilshire Boulevard.
While remaining involved with the Petersen, Mr. Mullin opened a museum three years ago in Oxnard, some 60 miles west of Los Angeles, to showcase part of his car collection, French vehicles from the Art Deco era.
“Cars have come into their own as an art form,” Mr. Mullin said, pointing to recent auto exhibitions at art museums in Atlanta; Boston; Nashville; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Utah; and even at the Louvre in Paris.
“There’s a great opportunity for the Petersen to expand from Southern California car culture into the world of cars as art, cars as freedom and cars as solutions to transportation problems,” Mr. Mullin said. “There’s a lot to work with.”
But, he added, “I just took on the assignment last Friday, so it’s early to lay out what we’re going to do. But it’s not that we’re not chock full of ideas.”
Mr. Karges shared some of those ideas.
The first, it seems, is already in place. In addition to announcing the board’s new leadership team, the museum said its recent experiment of offering guided tours of its “vault,” the underground parking lot where it stores vehicles not on public display, had been so successful it would be continued and even expanded, with tours twice daily on weekdays and four times a day on weekends and holidays.
“The opening of the vault was a revelation,” Mr. Karges said.
Seeing how visitors were eager for more has led to looking at better use of all potential display space. “There are four floors here,” Mr. Karges said. “Are we really utilizing all four floors to their maximum?”
In addition to its permanent displays, the museum usually shows two special exhibits at any time. But with some architectural updating, Mr. Karges said, there could be room for perhaps twice as many exhibits.
“There are more stories to tell,” Mr. Karges said, adding that a movie theater and film festival are among the ideas being considered.
“The museum is poised to change dramatically over the next five years,” he added.
Some of those changes will be physical, including an architectural update. But the museum also is looking beyond its walls to street fairs and cruise-ins, events of interest to people who aren’t necessarily automotive enthusiasts.