LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Autry Museum of the American West announced Tuesday that current President and CEO W. Richard West Jr. will retire next June.

Photo of W. Richard West, Jr., President and CEO of the Autry Museum.

West will be succeeded by UCLA history professor Stephen Aron, who was the founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry.

West, who was previously a Native rights lawyer and founding director and director emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., was recruited out of retirement by the Autry’s Board of Trustees in 2012 to relocate to Los Angeles to head the museum in Griffith Park, which was founded in 1988.

“At the request of the Autry’s Board of Trustees, West will stay with the Autry until next summer to ensure a smooth transition through what is expected to be the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement issued by museum officials. “To date, the Autry has been able to adapt successfully to the hard realities of the current crisis while creating a robust and imaginative programming presence for the public virtually.”

Highlights of West’s tenure include overseeing the construction of the Autry’s Resources Center, a state-of-the-art collection, research and education facility in Burbank, as well as a process with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to find a sustainable future for the historic Southwest Museum of the American Indian.

Aron has been on the UCLA faculty since 1996. For many of those years, he held a concurrent appointment as executive director of the Institute for the Study of the American West and then chair of Western History at the Autry Museum.

Photo of Stephen Aron (Photo: Autry Museum)

“I’ve spent more than three decades researching and writing about the confluences and confrontations of peoples and cultures that shaped the history of North American frontiers and borderlands, but it was my time at the Autry that truly transformed how I think and teach about the American West,” Aron said.

“At the Autry, I learned the power of arts and objects, the joy of collaborations and the imperative of public history. I’m so honored now to rejoin the Autry family, and I’m excited to embrace the challenge of making our museum matter more to more people.”


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