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
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.
Excerpted below, the letter draws on the words of Langston Hughes and Loren Miller, powerful voices in The Huntington's collections, to indict deep historical injustice and violence against the Black community.
Like other cultural institutions throughout the country, we have been challenged over the past week to say what actions we are taking to back up our words of solidarity. Last year, for the first time in The Huntington's 100-year history, our community—our boards, staff, and senior leadership—created and ratified a five-year Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan with a specific set of goals, action items, and metrics that will serve as a roadmap for the future. The plan identifies diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values in every aspect of our institution—building our collections, creating exhibitions, hiring practices, naming board members, forging partnerships, and more—and commits us to becoming a more inclusive, diverse, and better institution. We've included a link to the plan below. The current coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic contractions have only amplified the inequities of our society, making this work all the more pressing. By putting a plan in place, we made a commitment to ourselves, each other, and our public audiences, and we hold ourselves accountable. We are committed to continued reflection and modifications of our practices, and to the strengthening of our public mission. Actions as well as words. Black Lives Matter.
Karen Lawrence, President
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.