SAN MARINO— The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration kicks off Sept. 5, 2019, setting in motion a yearlong series of exhibitions, public programs, new initiatives, and more—inviting people with a range of interests to engage with the venerable institution’s collections and the connections they offer, and to join an exploration of ideas that will shape the future.
“This institution’s reach is already wide,” said Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence. “Each year, hundreds of researchers mine and interpret our collections, thousands engage with us over social media, and hundreds of thousands of visitors come to wander the galleries and gardens, take classes, attend concerts or lectures, or celebrate special occasions. We are seizing this moment to amplify our invitation to new audiences in our Southern California communities and beyond, as well as to welcome artists, writers, and scholars to explore new synergies across the library, art, and botanical collections.”
The major exhibition of the Centennial is “Nineteen Nineteen,” which is on view from Sept. 20, 2019 through Jan. 20, 2020. The sweeping display will examine The Huntington and its founding through the prism of a single, tumultuous year—1919—bringing together about 275 objects drawn from the institution’s vast collections. In October, the exhibition “What Now: Collecting for the Library” opens in the Library’s West Hall, a two-part series highlighting a wide variety of recent acquisitions of manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera. Also opening in the fall of 2019 is an exhibition based on the notion of Utopia that will feature new Huntington-inspired work by artists selected for a yearlong partnership with Los Angeles arts organization Clockshop. Participating artists are Nina Katchadourian, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, and Rosten Woo, and writers Dana Johnson and Robin Coste Lewis, poet laureate for the city of Los Angeles.
The President’s Series, a new initiative presenting performances, conversations, and other events celebrating the humanities, will debut with a conversation on Nov. 4 with Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book and Viet Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer. Why it Matters, another new distinguished speaker/artist series debuting as part of the Centennial, will include, among other events, a conversation between Drew Gilpin Faust, former president of Harvard University and Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence.
The Huntington’s education programs—which engage some 15,000 school children and their teachers each year—has ramped up activities with Southern California schools by adding a special Centennial-themed student tour and teacher summit to its list of programs. And to encourage the next generation of lifelong learners, 100 free Huntington memberships will be offered to students attending Southern California colleges and universities. Details about how students may enter the giveaway will be available at huntington.org by September.
The Huntington Then and Now
It was in August 1919 that railroad and real estate businessman Henry Edwards Huntington (1850–1927) and his wife Arabella (1850–1924) drafted the trust document that established The Huntington as a collections-based research and educational institution for the public’s benefit. Twelve miles from downtown Los Angeles, their Gilded Age estate—one of the first cultural centers in Southern California—opened to the public in 1928. Since that time, the collections have grown exponentially, the institution has become a premier research center and a leader in the promotion and preservation of the humanities, and its galleries and botanical gardens have become beloved destinations to some 750,000 visitors each year.
In the last two decades alone, The Huntington has doubled its art gallery space and added a Ming Dynasty-style Chinese Garden, the sprawling Brody Botanical Center, the 90,000-square-foot Munger Research center, a gallery focused on the history of science, and a 6.5-acre education and visitor center featuring new visitor amenities, the 400-seat Rothenberg Hall, and several multipurpose spaces and classrooms.
The Huntington also has added dramatically to its collections since its founding, especially in the areas of American art, the history of science and technology, and the history of California and the West. The collections include extensive historical and literary archives currently numbering more than 11 million items, as well as signature holdings of European and American art, and more than 120 acres of widely varied botanical collections. “In its first 100 years, The Huntington has established itself as a vital cultural treasure,” Lawrence said. “We look forward to envisioning what the next 100 years will bring.”
Highlighted Public Events and Activities (Sept. 2019–Sept. 2020)
Sep. 21, 2019–Jan. 20, 2020
MaryLou and George Boone Gallery
A major exhibition that examines The Huntington and its founding through the prism of a single, tumultuous year, “Nineteen Nineteen” brings together more than 250 objects drawn from the institution’s library and art collections. In 1919, as Henry and Arabella Huntington signed the trust document that would transform their property into a public institution, the United States roiled in the aftermath of World War I. Organized around themes defined by the verbs “Fight,” “Return,” “Map,” “Move,” and “Build,” the exhibition showcases items that embody an era in flux. Rare books, posters, letters, photographs, diaries, paintings, sculpture, and ephemera will be on view, many for the first time. Highlights include representative items from 1919, such as a 37-foot map of a Pacific Electric (Red Car) route in Los Angeles, photographs of Halley’s Comet, German Revolution posters, and suffragist pamphlets, alongside important works acquired by Henry E. Huntington in the lead-up to that year, including the original manuscript of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the journal of Aaron Burr, and the memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman.
What Now: Collecting for the Library in the 21st Century
Part I: Oct. 19, 2019–Feb. 17, 2020
Part II: May 1–Aug. 24, 2020
Library, West Hall
“Collecting for the Library in the 21st Century” is an exhibition in two parts that illuminates The Huntington’s role in documenting the human experience in support of education and scholarly research. The more than 100 acquisitions featured represent recent trends in developing the Library’s collection strengths, ranging from American and British history to medieval manuscripts, from Hispanic history and culture to the history of medicine. All materials on view were acquired since the year 2000. This is the first time that these objects will be on public display at The Huntington.
Utopia [working title]
Nov. 9, 2019–Feb. 24, 2020
Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing
Showcasing new work by artists selected for a yearlong collaboration with Los Angeles arts organization Clockshop, this exhibition marks the fourth year of The Huntington’s /five initiative. Artists invited to participate in this year’s project are Nina Katchadourian, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, and Rosten Woo, and writers Dana Johnson and Robin Coste Lewis, poet laureate for the city of Los Angeles. Each participant will create work based on research in The Huntington’s collections investigating ideas of perfection and utopia using Thomas More’s satirical work Utopia (1516) as a foundational text and starting point. The selected artists will collaborate with Huntington curators during their yearlong residencies to engage with archival materials of their choosing.
March 14–June 22, 2020
Installations at five gallery entrances
How do five venerable bonsai trees relate in age and historical significance to important works in The Huntington’s library and art collections? With an interdisciplinary approach that only The Huntington could offer, “Lifelines/Timelines” explores the march of time by comparing the age of selected California juniper bonsai alongside benchmarks in the institution’s 100-year history, and with significant pieces on view in the library and art galleries. Lines in the grain of natural deadwood sections of these bonsai can be used to calculate the tree’s age, much like the rings in a cross-section. Which line of a tree’s growth corresponds to the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623? How does its age relate to the creation of Thomas Gainsborough’s masterpiece, The Blue Boy, painted ca. 1770? Each of the exhibition’s five bonsai installations, located at gallery entrances, will include an illustrated timeline, interactive elements geared toward children, and other interpretive materials, offering an entirely new perspective on The Huntington’s holdings. Locations: Mapel Orientation Gallery, Library Main Hall, Dibner Hall of the History of Science, Huntington Art Gallery, and Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art.
Lectures and Conferences
In America, Nineteen Nineteen
Oct. 18–19, 2019, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Complementing The Huntington’s major fall exhibition, “Nineteen Nineteen,” this conference focuses on the wide range of social, cultural, and political events that provided a national context for Henry and Arabella Huntington’s act of philanthropy in founding the institution comprising a library, art collections and botanical gardens in 1919. Despite the ending of the Great War, 1919 is an infamous year in American history: It included the nation’s first Red Scare, a period rife with hysteria and fear of communism; the Red Summer of racial violence; a third wave of the flu pandemic; labor protests; and riots. It was also a year in which the U.S. established itself as an economic superpower, a year of cultural ferment (jazz, modernism, the formation of the United Artists Corp.), and a year identified with the emerging assertion of human and civil rights. Registration details available Sept. 1.
The Founder and the Future: Becoming Henry Huntington
The John Randolph Haynes Foundation Lecture in the History and Culture of Los Angeles
Wed., Oct. 23, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, explores the life of Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927) against the backdrop of American history. As a boy, Huntington diligently copied out proverbs by which to structure his life and his moral universe. What can these determinations tell us, as we follow him and them through time, about ambition, success, legacies, as well as roads not taken or journeys left incomplete? How did Huntington make his way through life and by what lodestars? In this year of The Huntington’s Centennial, how do we measure the man and the institution that bears his name? Free; advance reservations required.
President’s Series: Susan Orlean and Viet Nguyen
Mon., Nov. 4, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
A new series of performances, conversations, and other events with fresh perspectives debuts with a conversation between Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book, and Viet Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, moderated by William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. They will discuss how their books evoke a sense of place—they both use Southern California as a backdrop. Free; advanced reservations required.
Hamlet and Other Ghost Stories
The Ridge Lecture in Literature
Wed., Nov. 13, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
Henry Huntington acquired one of the rarest books in the history of English literature, a book that changed how we understand Shakespeare’s greatest play. This so-called “bad quarto” of Hamlet was discovered 200 years after Shakespeare’s death, in a closet of the manor house of a country gentleman in Suffolk, England. Zachary Lesser, professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses how this book’s discovery in 1823 transformed our ideas about Hamlet, how it made its way to The Huntington, and what can we learn from the history of this remarkable book about the work of libraries in the 21st century. Free; advance reservations required.
President’s Series: Hamlet’s Bad Quarto
Thurs., Nov. 14, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
What if you don’t know Hamlet after all? The Huntington holds one of only two copies of the first quarto of Hamlet—sometimes called the “bad quarto”—the first published version of the play. Credited to Shakespeare, it has significant differences from the text you read in school or have seen performed elsewhere. In this fanciful and engaging evening, we compare scenes from the infamous first quarto alongside the much more familiar version of the play. Join scholar and author Zachary Lesser and the Independent Shakespeare Co. for an evening of drama, audience interaction, and more than a few surprises. Together, we’ll ask, “How did it come to be that the most famous play in the world has a shadow version we’ve never heard of?” Free; advance reservations required.
Benjamin Franklin: The Often Truthful, Always Radical, Never Completed American Founder
The Allan Nevins Lecture in American History
Wed., Dec. 11, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
Joyce Chaplin, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University, revisits The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, one of Henry Huntington’s most prized manuscript acquisitions and the story of a life that is tantalizingly open-ended because it is unfinished. His life documents almost an entire century, an era of significant, often radical upheavals. But the text of Franklin’s autobiography ends with the words “never put into Execution,” and the associated outline of events he meant to write about ends with “&c.” Both are open invitations to read and reread the never-ending life of the celebrated founding father. Either of the inconclusive conclusions is more dramatic than “The End,” so much more so that one wonders whether he did it on purpose? Free; advance reservations required.
Drew Faust Gives Founder’s Day Lecture
Thurs., Feb. 27, 3 p.m.
Program details TBA. Free; advance reservations required.
Why It Matters: Drew Gilpin Faust and Karen R. Lawrence
Thurs., Feb. 27, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
For the debut of the new Why It Matters series, Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence speaks with Drew Gilpin Faust, former president of Harvard and a Civil War scholar, about the importance of the humanities. Free; advance reservations required.
Other events, initiatives, and offerings
Centennial College Membership Program
As part of its commitment to welcoming the regional college student community during its Centennial Celebration, The Huntington will offer free Sustaining Level Memberships (valued at $159 each) to the first 100 Los Angeles County college students who apply. Students may enter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org on or after Sept. 6, 2019. The recipients will redeem their Memberships on site, with proof of college ID and current enrollment.
Centennial Family Day
Nov. 16, 2019, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Visitors can join the Centennial fun with a day of family-friendly art making, performances, and concerts celebrating The Huntington at 100—looking back at its history as well as looking forward to the future. General admission. No reservations required.
The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration
(Sept. 2019–Sept. 2020)
For the past 100 years, The Huntington has examined the human experience through the lens of its incomparable library, art, and botanical collections. Marking its centennial with a year-long series of exhibitions and events, The Huntington celebrates the impact of its collections and the connections they offer, while exploring the interdisciplinary ideas that will shape the next 100 years.
Follow the Centennial on social media – #100atTheH
About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at huntington.org.
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, CA, 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org.