Petersen Automotive Museum

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Petersen Automotive Museum
PetersonMuseum 01.jpg
Established 1994
Location 6060 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California
United States
Coordinates 34°03′45″N 118°21′40″W / 34.062472°N 118.361034°W / 34.062472; -118.361034Coordinates: 34°03′45″N 118°21′40″W / 34.062472°N 118.361034°W / 34.062472; -118.361034
Type Automotive museum
Director Terry L. Karges[1]
Curator Leslie Kendall

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 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.


On October 19, 2014, the Petersen Automotive Museum closed for extensive remodeling. Plans call for the museum to reopen on December 6, 2015.[2]

Prior to closing, the museum had about 150 vehicles on display in its main galleries. The remaining half of the collection was kept in a "vault", located on the basement level of the building. Age restrictions and an admission premium were in effect to view the vault collection.[3] The ground floor displayed a virtual history of the automobile in Los Angeles, complete with vintage vehicles and buildings. The second floor housed both permanent and special exhibits. The third floor featured the May Family Children's Discovery Center — an interactive exhibit where children could learn science through the workings of a car. The fourth floor housed an all-glass penthouse conference center, Founder's Lounge, and kitchen for corporate and private use. The rooftop conference center was originally built by Seibu as a restaurant surrounded by a reflecting pool.

Some of the cars and automotive memorabilia in the Petersen collection 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.[4]

Museum in popular culture[edit]

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.

Orbach'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.


  1. ^ Allen, Chester (October 2012). "Inside Line". Sports Car Market 24 (10): 16. 
  2. ^ Fleming, Charles (20 October 2014). "Petersen Automotive Museum closes, and closes in on fundraising target". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ "The Vault". Petersen Automotive Museum. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  4. ^ Vaughn, Mark (April 26, 2011). "Petersen museum gets $100 million gift from founders". AutoWeek. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Petersen Automotive Museum at Wikimedia Commons