Huntington Frontiers

Huntington Frontiers connects readers with the rich intellectual life of The Huntington, capturing in news and features the work of researchers, educators, curators, and others across a range of disciplines. It is produced semi-annually by The Huntington’s Office of Communications and Marketing.

Kevin Durkin, Huntington Frontiers Editor

This Issue


Cover of Frontiers Fall/Winter 2020

Frontiers Articles

Mathew Brady (1822–1896), William M. Gwin, half-length portrait, three-quarters to the right, between ca. 1844 and ca. 1860. Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.
May. 26, 2021

In his book, West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2021), Kevin Waite, assistant professor of history at Durham University in England, uncovers the surprising history of the Old South in unexpected places, far beyond the region's cotton fields and sugar plantations.

Barbara and Kathy Fiscus. Barbara Fiscus Collection.
Mar. 17, 2021

William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and professor of history at USC, recently published Kathy Fiscus: A Tragedy that Transfixed the Nation (Angel City Press, 2021), in which he tells the story of a groundbreaking live TV news broadcast of a rescue attempt in 1949 to save a little girl who had fallen down a deep well in San Marino

Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, ca. 1785, oil on canvas, 24 ¾ x 30 ¼ in. (62.9 x 76.8 cm). Purchased with funds from The George R. and Patricia Geary Johnson British Art Acquisition Fund. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Dec. 22, 2020
Issue: 2020 Fall/Winter

When The Huntington acquired Henry Fuseli's The Three Witches (ca. 1785) in 2014, I could immediately see clues that there was something to discover beneath its surface.

Patti Perret, photograph of Octavia E. Butler seated by her bookcase, 1984. © Patti Perret
Dec. 22, 2020
Issue: 2020 Fall/Winter

In her life and work, Octavia E. Butler strove to embody what could be.

Author and journalist Lynell George, a 2017–18 Alan Jutzi Fellow at The Huntington, has been working with the Octavia E. Butler archives for four years. The result is a very personal book, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler (Angel City Press, 2020), in which George describes how she came to know and identify with Butler

James P. Folsom, the Marge and Sherm Telleen/Marion and Earle Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens, has transformed The Huntington during his 36 years at the institution. Photograph by Danielle Rudeen.
Dec. 22, 2020
Issue: 2020 Fall/Winter

The Huntington's botanical gardens have long been shaped by the vision of Jim Folsom.

When young botany student Jim Folsom traveled from Austin, Texas, to The Huntington to interview for an assistant curator job in late August of 1984, he was completely turned off by the heavy traffic and acrid smog that hung over the Los Angeles basin.

Pages 96 and 97 in Shugart’s account book (1851–53) listing enslaved people he helped usher to freedom.
Jul. 20, 2020
Issue: 2020 Spring/Summer

Curator Olga Tsapina discusses the account book of an Underground Railroad operator

The Huntington is home to extensive collections documenting the history of slavery and abolition in the United States and the Atlantic World.

Andrew Raftery, January: Reading Seed Catalogs, 2009–16, engravings transfer printed on glazed white earthenware.
Jul. 19, 2020
Issue: 2020 Spring/Summer

Andrew Raftery's ceramic plates capture the cycle of the seasons in fine detail

Raftery, a professor of printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, specializes in engraved scenes of contemporary American suburbia

“On combinations of four mirrors forming a square” in David Brewster, The Kaleidoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction (London, 1858)
Jul. 17, 2020
Issue: 2020 Spring/Summer

How a Scottish scientist's invention influenced 19th-century American decorative art

Few objects have played a greater role in underscoring the combined power of light, color, and motion than the kaleidoscope

Vine Street at Sunset Boulevard, at Night, July 27, 1948. Photograph by Bob Plunkett. Ernest Marquez Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Oct. 17, 2019
Issue: 2019 Fall/Winter

Author Lynell George reflects on assembling the Huntington timeline

As part of the preparation for The Huntington’s Centennial year, Los Angeles–based journalist and essayist Lynell George spent months delving into the history of the institution

Hamlet and the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act I, Scene IV (engraving based on a painting by Henry Fuseli)
Oct. 16, 2019
Issue: 2019 Fall/Winter

The Huntington's copy of the first edition of the play upended the play's history

In 1914, Henry E. Huntington acquired from the Duke of Devonshire a collection of English drama that included one of two surviving copies of the first edition of Hamlet

Early interior of the Huntington Library Building in 1919-1920
Oct. 15, 2019
Issue: 2019 Fall/Winter

Henry and Arabella Huntington looked to the future by safeguarding the past

Alfonso C. Gomez, Henry E. Huntington’s longtime valet, sat for an interview in 1959, more than three decades after his employer’s death. 

John Singer Sargent, Sphinx and Chimera, 1916–1921
Oct. 13, 2019
Issue: 2019 Fall/Winter

A young conservator carefully restores a John Singer Sargent oil sketch

For several weeks in early 2019, three members of a younger generation of conservators worked under The Huntington's senior paintings conservator

Bee keeper taking out honeycomb
Oct. 12, 2019
Issue: 2019 Fall/Winter

Beekeeper Kevin Heydman's relocation process is one for the books

Bees are no strangers to The Huntington. There are numerous hives in trees on the property that cause few problems

20th century photograph of Carleton E. Watkins
Jun. 22, 2019
Issue: 2019 Spring/Summer

His indelible photographs captured and promoted the American West

In his new book, art writer Tyler Green argues that Carleton Watkins (1829–1916)—widely considered the greatest American photographer of the 19th century—was also one of the most influential artists of his era.

Old map of Los Angeles
Jun. 20, 2019
Issue: 2019 Spring/Summer

Pioneer cartographer Laura L. Whitlock captured a megalopolis in the making

In August 1919, Henry and Arabella Huntington drafted documents converting their San Marino ranch into a "library, art gallery, museum, and park."

Celia Paul painting
Jun. 19, 2019
Issue: 2019 Spring/Summer

How Celia Paul's art resonates with that of the Brontë sisters

Beautifully installed on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery, the "Celia Paul" exhibition invokes works by some of the 19th-century painters in The Huntington's permanent collection 

Man inspecting a cycad
Jun. 15, 2019
Issue: 2019 Spring/Summer

A Huntington researcher's surprising findings about the evolution of Dioon cycads

The cycad is often regarded as a living fossil—a favorite food of dinosaurs that hasn’t changed much in hundreds of millions of years...

Golden tassels
Dec. 28, 2018
Issue: 2018 Fall/Winter

Kathleen Quinn's elegant drapes accent the renovation of a grand staircase

In advance of The Huntington’s Centennial celebration, which gets under way in the fall of 2019, Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art, decided that it was time to reimagine the décor...

Entrance to Chinese Garden
Dec. 28, 2018
Issue: 2018 Fall/Winter

The garden's curator contemplates its poetry

With the start of the final phase of the Chinese Garden’s construction, we asked the garden’s curator, Phillip E. Bloom, who joined The Huntington in September 2017, to reflect on two of the initial features installed in 2008...

Portrait of young man migrating to US
Dec. 28, 2018
Issue: 2018 Fall/Winter

The distance between Mexico and the U.S. can't always be measured in miles

For generations, Mexican migrants hoping to expand their possibilities have had to bridge the emotional gap between home and the unknown...

Illustration of Oswego, on Lake Ontario
Dec. 28, 2018
Issue: 2018 Fall/Winter

A collection of correspondence yields insight into the Seven Years' War

On November 13, 1756, James Grahame hastily scribbled a letter at his London residence. The note, addressed to William Mercer in Perth, Scotland, confirmed that Grahame’s friend and William’s brother, Colonel James F. Mercer, was dead.