Pandora is the Curator and Education Director at the San Diego Automotive Museum. Her knowledge and passion, combined with her interest in odd automobiles, have led to some of the most innovative and groundbreaking exhibits in the automobile world.
- How did you start working with the San Diego Automotive Museum?
I was in a graduate program for Educational Technology at SDSU, and had come up with an interactive exhibit concerning the history of gas pumps and a local landowner who had constructed a replica of a Gilmore gas station, repair bay, a barn find area, and a blacksmith shop all on his property. I came to the museum with the idea, and, even though they couldn’t create it, I began volunteering on projects and doing photography for the museum. The Education Director position opened a few years later to which I applied and was hired.
- What is your favorite part about working in the Automotive Museum?
That is a tough question because I have a lot of favorite parts! I like helping interns learn and develop work skills. I also enjoy educating students on different eras of automotive development and how it impacts them now. I love seeing the passion for automobiles grow in kids as they become enamored by specific models or eras. I love researching the different topics, then seeking out vehicles and artifacts to illustrate the theme(s), meeting the owners/fabricators/artists, learning about the individual vehicles and their personal history, and creating the content for the exhibits. Additionally, I really enjoy working on the setup of the exhibit floor, finding general ideas for the graphics, and letting our graphic artist, Paul Reese, loose to make some of the most outstanding graphics I have ever seen.
- What can you tell us about the new exhibit: “Steampunk Retro!”?
This exhibit is Steampunk Forward, meaning it goes beyond what people have standardized as Steampunk as many of the builds have Steampunk elements, but also something more. We have works from several world renowned artists that allowed us to exhibit their pieces such as: Baron Margo, Michael Leeds, Gregg Fleishman, and Jeff Jones, as well as non-vehicle artists like Dan Jones, Jeffrey Steorts, Andy Cameron, Brian Kesinger, Abimelec Arellano, Richard Ingalls and Roberto Vivar. Some of the works are more traditional Steampunk while others are quite a futuristic style of Steampunk. Some of the most breathtaking pieces are several full-sized, street legal creations by metal artist/fabricator Baron Margo. Baron’s work has been seen on the television show, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” and he also built a car for Jay Leno, called “The Tank Car”.
Here is a clip concerning Baron’s work from the LA Times:
- What has been the most challenging and rewarding experience working at the museum?
The experience of working in a museum has helped me grow both personally and professionally. It has helped me develop my skills as a project manager, and given me confidence in my abilities to rise above any situation. I worked in corporate educational settings prior to this and adjusting to the nonprofit culture was a big change. Also, the challenge of defining an exhibit theme and being able to locate vehicles, create content, and install the exhibits in a very short 3 month time period is a heart pounding experience.
- Out of all the automobiles that have passed through the museum, which has been the oddest or most interesting?
Wow. Is that a tough question, because I find them all interesting on one level or another. A few specific examples come to mind though. For our Rat Rods, I would go with “The Cockroach”. This automobile is a creation of Jerome Harlan: a rusty 1941 Dodge pickup on a 1992 Toyota chassis that had the wheel wells welded shut, an Electrolux Air cooler, an old Cushman dump truck bed with a barn door cover, and a 1932 Snub nose revolver for a hood ornament. For our Japanese Steel Show, I would have to say the Subaru 360, a little Kei car. And last but not least, all the vehicles and objects for our Steampunk show including “The Metamorphosis” by Baron Margo (which is a cross between an airplane, a submarine and a street legal car), Michale Leed’s “Flaming Sword of Truth” (a behemoth of a vehicle built around an V12 Ranger Aircraft engine), and Gregg Fleishman’s “SV-3 wooden car”. They are all exquisite in their own way.
- What do you like to do outside of working here in the Park?
Photography of vehicles with the patina of age, and watching Science Fiction shows when and if I have time. I also enjoy doing community outreach to the automotive community and, of course, going to other museums, especially cultural museums! I love to experience other cultures, traveling/living in other countries and teaching.
- Favorite song, TV show, movie?
Too many songs to list. Star Trek the original series. Thunderheart/Anastasia/The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
- What is your favorite type of automobile and why?
To be entirely honest, I don’t have a favorite. They all have their own charm and inherent abilities. I will say I prefer vehicles that are not common, or are more unusual and rare. I like Jowett Jupiters a lot. Other favorites include:
- Mazda Cosmos, Toyota 2000 GTs
- Small 1960’s/70’s Datsun pickups
- 1965 Toyota Land Cruiser 45 pickups
- 1970’s Citroen DS/SM
- 1973 Volvo P1800/1800ES
- 1959 Buicks Electras
- 1959/60 Desotos/Plymouths/Dodges
- 1960 Chrysler New Yorker Station Wagons (most late 50’s station wagons)
- Bugattis (from the 30’s)
- Talbot Lagos, Delahayes
- Jensen Interceptors,
- and the original Fisker Karma.
Concept cars are always favorites. In my opinion, the BMW GINA (2001) was intriguing.
- What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?
I really like the desert “garden” behind the Balboa Park Club. I find it peaceful to look at the bridge and try to destress a little. And, all the museums, of course!