A Collections-Based Research and Educational Institution
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. Each year, The Huntington:
- Provides 1,700 scholars with access to a world-class collection of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, paintings, prints, sculpture, and decorative arts
- Awards $1.85 million in fellowships (through a peer-review process) to scholars for advanced humanities research
- Educates thousands of schoolchildren and their teachers in art, history, literature, and botanical science through special tours and programs
- Organizes special exhibitions to enhance the visitor experience, interpret the collections, and facilitate learning
- Hosts more than 750,000 visitors
The Huntington has a membership totaling more than 40,000 households, an active volunteer corps of some 1,500, and a full- and part-time staff of more than 400. It is an independent nonprofit organization, supported by gifts and grants from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies and by a private endowment.
Henry and Arabella Huntington
Railroad and real estate businessman Henry Edwards Huntington was born on Feb. 27, 1850, in Oneonta, N.Y. Henry and his uncle, Collis P. Huntington, were leaders in building the railroads that span the country. In 1892, Henry moved to San Francisco to represent Huntington interests on the Pacific Coast. And in 1902 (two years after the death of Collis), Huntington transferred his headquarters to Los Angeles and started to connect, consolidate, and extend the electric railway system in Southern California (the “Red Cars”). He had large landholdings in Southern California and numerous business interests. In 1903, he bought the San Marino Ranch (now The Huntington). He married Arabella Duval Huntington, the widow of Collis, in 1913. Together, they amassed extensive library, art, and botanical collections that continue to evolve. Henry died in 1927; Arabella predeceased him by three years.
The Huntington Library is one of the world’s great independent research libraries, with more than 9 million items, spanning the 11th century to the present. Its Library collections encompass:
- 7 million manuscripts
- 430,000 rare books
- 275,000 reference books
- 875,000 prints and ephemera
- 774,000 photographs
- Outstanding collections related to the history of California and the American West, including Spanish-goverened Mexico and California.
- The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (ca. 1400–1405).
- One of 12 vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible known to exist (ca. 1455) and one of the most extensive collections of 15th-century printed books in the United States.
- Quarto and folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays, including ones printed during the writer’s lifetime.
- Letters and manuscripts by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln, including the original manuscript of Franklin’s autobiography.
- First editions and manuscripts by authors such as William Blake, Jack London, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, and the literary archives of Charles Bukowski, Octavia Butler, and Hilary Mantel.
- Rare books and manuscripts on the history of science, medicine, and technology. With the 2006 acquisition of the Burndy Library (a collection of nearly 60,000 items), The Huntington has become among the top institutions in the world for the study of the history of science and technology.
- The Jay T. Last Collection of over 200,000 printed paper artifacts of mostly 19th and early 20th-century American origin printed by the lithographic process.
The Library Main Exhibition Hall showcases some of the most outstanding rare books and manuscripts in the collection. About 150 rare objects are grouped thematically around 12 key works, prompting visitors to consider each item in a wider context.
The Dibner Hall of the History of Science is a permanent exhibition focusing on astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light.
The West Hall of the Library presents temporary themed exhibitions.
The 90,000-square-foot Munger Research Center provides storage capacity for further collections development, work space for scholars and staff, and facilities for conservation, preservation, exhibition preparation, digital imaging, and photography.
The Huntington’s art collections focus on European art from the 15th to the early 20th century and American art from the late 17th to the late 20th century. The holdings continue to grow by gift and purchase. The European collections are displayed in the Huntington Art Gallery, the original Huntington residence. American art is on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. Smaller, focused exhibitions are presented in the Works on Paper Room in the Huntington Art Gallery and in the Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing of the Scott Galleries.
European Art Highlights
- One of the most distinguished collections of late 18th- and early 19th-century British paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts outside the United Kingdom, including Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy; Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse; John Constable’s View on the Stour near Dedham; J. M. W. Turner’s The Grand Canal, Venice; and major holdings of design materials relating to William Morris
- The Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection, which contains Italian and northern European renaissance paintings, including Rogier van der Weyden’s Virgin and Child, and sculpture, along with a spectacular collection of 18th-century French sculpture, tapestries, porcelain, and furniture
- 18th-century continental European art, particularly French paintings, including works by Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Antoine Watteau; and sculpture, including important works by Clodion and Jean-Antoine Houdon
- Renaissance and Mannerist bronze statuettes, including Giambologna’s Nessus and Deianira
- The European art collections include about 420 paintings, 370 works of sculpture, more than 2,500 decorative art objects, and 20,000 prints and drawings
American Art Highlights
- Begun in 1979 with a major gift from the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation, the American art holdings number about 270 paintings, 80 works of sculpture, 1,000 decorative art objects, 9,500 prints and drawings, and 1,800 photographs
- Masterpieces in the paintings collection include Frederic Edwin Church’s monumental Chimborazo, Mary Cassatt’s intimate Breakfast in Bed, Edward Hopper’s evocative sailing scene, The Long Leg, and Andy Warhol’s Small Crushed Campbell’s Soup Can (Beef Noodle)
- The Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing contains 18th- and 19th-century paintings, furniture, and works of decorative art, offering visitors insights into the history of American art practice
- An important part of the permanent installation is a gallery devoted to the work of early 20th-century Pasadena architects Charles and Henry Greene.
Encompassing approximately 120 acres of the 207-acre grounds, the botanical gardens contain more than a dozen principal garden areas.
- Liu Fang Yuan 流芳園, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, reflecting the traditional style of scholar gardens in Suzhou, China, and featuring a 1.5-acre lake, a complex of pavilions, a teahouse and tea shop, stone bridges, and waterfalls set against a wooded backdrop of mature oaks and pines
- The Japanese Garden, with a traditional Japanese house, a moon bridge, a walled Zen garden, and bonsai courts, and Seifu-an, a ceremonial teahouse and garden
- The Desert Garden, one of the largest outdoor collections of mature cacti and succulents in the world
- The Frances and Sidney Brody California Garden in the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center. Arranged along a central allée of olive trees, the garden includes native and adaptive plantings set among hedge rooms in a nod toward more formal landscape design
- The Frances Lasker Brody Botanical Center, featuring:
- The Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden, introducing youngsters to the wonders of the natural world through interactive sculptural elements
- The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science and the Associated Foundations Teaching Greenhouse, providing hands-on botanical science opportunities for children and families, and showcasing orchids and other tropical collections
- Adjacent laboratories offering opportunities for botanical research. Plant biologists are testing ways to safely freeze aloe tissue as a conservation method. Genetic research on cycads is revealing much about the plant’s evolutionary history
- The Ranch Garden, testing and demonstrating contemporary ideas for sustainable urban agriculture
- Additional garden areas devoted to roses and camellias, each collection with more than 1,400 different cultivars. The camellia collection is considered one of the most comprehensive in the world.
- The Australian, Herb, Jungle, Lily Ponds, Palm, and Subtropical gardens are among other important botanical attractions.
Each year, some 1,700 scholars come from around the world to conduct advanced humanities research using The Huntington’s collections. Through a rigorous peer-review program, the institution awards approximately 200 grants to scholars in the fields of history, literature, art history, and the history of science and medicine. Scholarship carried out in our reading rooms results in best-selling books, Pulitzer Prizes, acclaimed documentary films, and many of the history and social studies textbooks that educate the nation’s schoolchildren. Research activities at The Huntington include academic conferences, workshops, symposia, and lectures.
Through a partnership with the University of Southern California, The Huntington has established two research centers: the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute supports advanced research and scholarship on human societies between 1450 and 1850; the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West brings together historians and other scholars, students, writers, journalists, and policymakers to investigate and debate the rich history of California and the American West.
The Huntington’s education programs interpret the collections and promote lifelong learning to a broad audience.
- Each year, school programs introduce the collections to more than 15,000 schoolchildren from around Southern California through tours led by volunteer education facilitators
- Scores of teachers participate in professional development activities featuring scholarly lectures and curriculum development
- The Huntington partners with schools and school districts to provide deep, long-term engagement with students and teachers through school visits and professional development for teachers. Education staff use inquiry-based techniques and then help educators implement these techniques in their own teaching
- More than 15,000 households participate each year in public programs, including classes, workshops, performances, lectures, and our annual summer program for children, Huntington Explorers
- The Huntington collaborates regularly with Boys and Girls Club, YWCA, and other community organizations serving young people
Architecture at a Glance
The Huntington is also known for its architecture.
- The Huntington Art Gallery, originally Henry and Arabella’s home, was designed by Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey. It was constructed from 1909 to 1911 and comprises 55,000 square feet. A 2008 renovation and adaptive reuse was led by Earl Corp. and Architectural Resources Group
- The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art comprises the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery (1984), designed by Paul Gray, and the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery (2005), designed by Frederick Fisher, a space totaling 39,100 square feet. A new addition, also designed by Fisher, the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing, opened in 2016 adding 8,600 square feet
- The MaryLou and George Boone Gallery was designed by Hunt and Grey as the Huntingtons’ garage and built in 1911. The 8,000-square-foot structure was converted to gallery space in 1999 by architect Brenda Levin
- The original 96,000-square-foot Library building was also designed by Hunt and Grey and built in 1919; it has five subsequent additions, including the 90,000-square-foot Munger Research Center (2004), designed by Earl Corp
- The Huntington Mausoleum is the burial place of Henry and Arabella. It was designed by John Russell Pope (responsible for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.), with sculpture by John Gregory, and completed in 1929
- The Frances Lasker Brody Botanical Center was designed by Offenhauser and Associates and includes a maintenance complex (15,000 square feet; built in 2000); the research and education facility (45,000 square feet; 2001); The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science (18,000 square feet; 2003), and the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden (1⁄3 acre; 2004)
- The 6.5-acre Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center (2015), comprises 94,000 feet of new interior space. The complex encompasses 52,000 square feet above ground of classrooms, an auditorium, a multi-purpose room, café, coffee shop, gift shop, boardroom, and orientation gallery. It also includes 42,000 square feet of underground storage space. The complex was designed by Architectural Resources Group; landscape architect was the Office of Cheryl Barton