Yesterday afternoon, a really good friend of mine who is super into cars had free tickets to the Petersen Automotive Museum, so I was dragged along as well. Now, I’m not really into cars, especially compared to my friends, but I don’t hate them either, so I actually found this museum quite interesting.
The museum was divided into three distinct floors: a history floor, an industry floor, and an artistry floor. The industry floor showcased a lot of engineering and designs regarding cars (especially more modern technology geared towards being more ecologically/environmentally friendly), and the artistry floor focused more on aesthetics. These floors both had very interesting and attractive models, however, for the sake of this class (LA History), I would like to focus more on the history floor.
As recommended by the people at the front desk, my friend and I started at the top (History floor), and went down from there to end at the Art floor. This gave us a better appreciation of the development of automobiles, especially regarding their applications and influence. This floor, like the others, had so many cool galleries, but the one that stood out to me the most was the Southland Gallery, which specifically referenced Los Angeles and how it was the city most “built for the automobile.” Of course, I was able to make a rather obvious connection here.
We’ve talked about how cars were and mostly still are the way to get around LA. Even in John Fante’s “Ask the Dust,” Bandini could only travel so far walking, so to reach further places he would use Camilla’s car. In such a big city, the car represented freedom (from walking and other slower modes of transportation) to get around, as well as independence from timed forms of transportation, like trains. Although most people in the U.S. have cars nowadays, back in the day this freedom and independence was a sign of wealth. Now, despite a car being so commonplace, as shown by this museum it was and still is a very significant part of the culture of Los Angeles, Southern California, the U.S., and even the world. This connection between the class and the museum definitely made me appreciate the historic, technological, and stylistic impacts automobiles have. Hell, despite the amount of deaths they cause as a result of accidents, along with their negative impact on the environment, we are trying to come up with ways to reduce that (and make them more user-friendly), yet still keep this machine that means so much to us. Maybe museums like this, along with car shows and other events that display models are a thing because of our love of their original function, and the freedom it provides. Maybe our culture’s focus on cars stems from this feeling of freedom (#’Murica), as if most people (usually my guy friends, but not me personally), put cars on a pedestal whenever they say things like “Whoa, look at that sick Ford GT,” or “Oh, thats just a problem with the carburetor.” Who knows, maybe it’s just my friends?