Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan for 2020–25.
The Huntington, at its core, is a collections-based nonprofit institution that supports and promotes the humanities, the arts, and botanical science. Fundamental to the work that we do is our community–both internal and external–the staff, our Boards, volunteers, scholars from around the world who conduct advanced research using the collections, and our public audiences. We recognize the value of our diverse perspectives and life experiences: these are the rich elements of a respectful, robust, productive, and creative environment that enable us to fulfill our mission and sustain the institution as it continues to evolve. Arabella and Henry Huntington created this institution 100 years ago to "promote the public welfare." This strategic plan is fully focused on the intent of the founders and our commitment to preserve, build, and share our treasured collections for the benefit of a global community. Together, we will nurture a culture of belonging and excellence that is fundamental to this place we hold so dear.
- Karen R. Lawrence, President
March 18, 2021 - Statement from President Karen R. Lawrence
Reaffirming our Commitment
Over the past year, communities from New York to the San Gabriel Valley have suffered the rise of deplorable acts of violence, aggression, and hate speech targeting Asians and Asian Americans. Even at The Huntington, recent incidents of verbal aggression have occurred. So, it is an important moment for us to state that The Huntington stands in solidarity with our Asian and Asian-American staff, donors, volunteers, visitors, and community members in condemning racially motivated violence, aggression, and hate speech in all forms. We recognize the innumerable contributions that Asians and Asian Americans have made to our country, our community, and our institution. We reaffirm our commitment to furthering our visitors' understanding of Asian and Asian-American history and culture through our collections, exhibitions, and gardens.
Indeed, The Huntington owes its very existence to the Chinese laborers who built the railroads that underpinned the Huntingtons' fortune and whose descendants were wrongfully prohibited from owning property in cities like San Marino. We owe the existence of our Japanese Garden to the skills of Japanese American carpenters, gardeners, and caretakers who were wrongfully interned during World War II despite their decades of contributions to our region.
The Huntington has a deep commitment to initiatives that foreground Asia and Asian Americans. We have made materials related to Asian-American history a key collecting area in our Library and have mounted exhibitions that celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans like Y. C. Hong, an immigration lawyer and community leader in Los Angeles' Chinatown. We have developed a Chinese Garden—and are redeveloping our Japanese Garden—to foster cross-cultural understanding through physical engagement with culturally specific garden-making practices. We have established the Center for East Asian Garden Studies, the world's only research center dedicated to promoting innovative scholarship on the garden traditions of China, Japan, and Korea. We work with Asian and Asian-American staff, donors, volunteers, scholars, and community members to share knowledge and further appreciation of Asian and Asian-American art, history, and gardens through exhibitions, lectures, and research fellowships. And we have committed to a Strategic Plan on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to celebrate the diversity of backgrounds, traditions, and experiences among the audiences we serve in Southern California and beyond.
Today, we are honored to welcome some 200,000 visitors of Asian descent to our grounds each year. We reaffirm our commitment to them—and to all members of The Huntington community—that our grounds will be free of racial animus. We pledge to continue to provide opportunities for intellectual engagement, sensory stimulation, and aesthetic delight that encourage cross-cultural empathy and understanding.
A week ago, I sent a letter to my Huntington staff colleagues, expressing solidarity with protests against systemic racism and injustice in the wake of the brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. More
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?"
–Langston Hughes, "Harlem"
Over the past few months, safety, security, and health have been at the forefront of our planning, and I have been thinking of how often I've used these very words. In the last week, these words have taken on further resonance and complexity. In a landscape of racial injustice, "safety," "health," and "security" are often what's missing, and ultimately, what's at stake. The words have meant different things for different groups in American society. One cannot observe the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color or watch the video of the murder of George Floyd without understanding exactly that.
At the same time, I know that the businesses of some of our staff and their families have been damaged by the social unrest that has rocked the Los Angeles area and placed much of the region under curfew. Those who have taken advantage of this moment to loot and vandalize detract from the quest for justice that fuels the protests.
At The Huntington, over the past eighteen months, we've begun important work on diversity and inclusion and making ourselves more accessible to a wider public; this continues to be one of our highest priorities. As we seek to understand the events of the past week, I am reminded of two important voices in our collections, first, that of Langston Hughes, whose 1951 poem "Harlem" resonates now more than ever, exploring what can happen when the voices of a group have been ignored over many, many years, and when others fail to notice what someone once called "the history of the crescendo." And I'm reminded of the words of Hughes's friend, LA civil rights attorney Loren Miller, who was the leader in fighting housing discrimination in Los Angeles and teamed with Thurgood Marshall to argue Shelley vs. Kraemer, the U.S. Supreme Court case that found restrictive housing covenants unconstitutional: "Either we shall have to make democracy work for every American, or in the last analysis we shall not be able to preserve it for any American."
Loren Miller, seated at desk, ca. 1950. Unknown photographer. Loren Miller Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
These voices from the Huntington's collections stand as witnesses to history and today, our institution stands in solidarity with them against racial injustice.