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California Library Hall of Fame: Charles Lummis
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California Library Hall of Fame

Charles Lummis (1859-1928)

Author, editor, and Indian rights activist, Charles Fletcher Lummis was a forceful advocate for California libraries and museums in the early 1900s. As he explained in a 1907 article in Out West magazine, “This city and this region had no grandfathers—to build us schools, libraries, museums. It is our task and our privilege to build these for ourselves.” Lummis dedicated his life to the development of cultural institutions in Los Angeles, the most important being the Southwest Museum, which he founded in 1907 to preserve and make available to scholars the vast collection of Native American artifacts, photographs, and recordings he had acquired in his travels throughout the Southwest.  Now part of the Autry National Center, the Southwest Museum and Library currently holds the second largest Native American collection in the United States. Lummis also served as director of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) from 1905 to 1910.  During his administration, he sought to make LAPL the most influential research institution in the West. He dramatically increased the library’s historical holdings, expanded and diversified library services, and fought to professionalize the library’s staff. Although his professional library career was brief, Lummis’s vision and perseverance helped create educational and research institutions that, to this day, preserve California’s unique cultural heritage.

Charles Lummis was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2014. His award is on display at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian's Braun Research Library. For more information about him, please see:

  • Dudley Gordon, Charles F. Lummis: Crusader in Corduroy (Los Angeles: Cultural Assets Press, 1972) 

  • Debra Gold Hansen, “A Lion in the Hennery: Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Los Angeles Public Library, 1905-1910. Vitae Scholastica 19 (2000), 5-33

  • Charles F. Lummis, “The Southwest Museum,” Out West 27 (1907), 389-412

  • Mark Thompson, American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Rediscovery of the Southwest (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001).

Photo courtesy of California Desert Art.