Petersen Automotive Museum
History and museums
The Petersen Automotive Museum is located on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles. One of the world's largest automotive museums, the Petersen Automotive Museum is a nonprofit organization specializing in automobile history and related educational programs.
Founded on June 11, 1994 by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen, and his wife Margie, the $40-million Petersen Automotive Museum is owned and operated by the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. Previously located within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the museum is permanently housed in a historic department store originally designed by Welton Becket. The building opened in 1962 as a short-lived U.S. branch of Seibu Department Stores, before operating as an Ohrbach's department store from 1965 to 1986. Six years after Ohrbach's closed, Robert Petersen selected the largely windowless site as an ideal space for a museum, where artifacts could be displayed without harmful exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of direct sunlight.
In 2015, the museum underwent an extensive $90 million renovation. The building's façade was redesigned by the architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, while designers at The Scenic Route configured interior spaces to accommodate changing exhibits that are intended to encourage repeated visits. The exterior features a stainless-steel ribbon assembly, made of 100 tons of 14-gauge type 304 steel in 308 sections, 25 supports and 140,000 custom stainless-steel screws. The remodeled museum opened to the public on December 7, 2015.
The museum has over one-hundred vehicles on display in its twenty-five galleries. The remaining half of the collection is kept in a "vault", located on the basement level of the building. Age restrictions and an admission premium are in effect to view the vault collection. The ground floor focuses on automotive artistry, showcasing an array of extravagant automobiles. The second floor is principally concerned with industrial engineering—including design, performance, and a collection of interactive teaching exhibits. Special displays on the industry floor cover racing, motorcycles, hot rods and customs. The third floor chronicles the history of the automobile with an emphasis on the car culture of Southern California.
Some of the cars and automotive memorabilia in the Petersen exhibits include:
The museum received a $100-million gift from Margie Petersen and the Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation in April 2011, which includes cash and the property the museum was leasing, as well as many of the vehicles belonging to the Petersens.
On March 9, 1997, after a party at the museum, The Notorious B.I.G. got into an SUV with his entourage and drove fifty yards to a red light where he was murdered by an unknown assailant.
Ohrbach's department store is featured in a lengthy sequence in the 1988 film Miracle Mile.
The museum is destroyed in the 1997 film, Volcano.
In a scene from Who Killed the Electric Car? a previous General Motors EV1 owner visits their car in the museum.