Library Exhibition Hall

Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times

Library Exhibition Hall


Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights from the Huntington Library is an ongoing exhibition featuring some 150 rare objects drawn from the Library's extraordinary collections. This unparalleled exhibition opens with manuscripts from the Middle Ages and ends with the diversity and development of the American West. Iconic works sit in conversation with their lesser-known contemporaries to tell fresh stories about the human past, giving unexpected insights into the collections and into history itself.

The exhibition begins in the 15th century with the Ellesmere Chaucer, a spectacular manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Texts that inspired Shakespeare surround the first folio edition of his collected plays, published in 1623. Documents from Abraham Lincoln’s life and the Civil War accompany materials about the passage of the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862 and the preservation of Yosemite as a wilderness area in 1864. Susan B. Anthony and her pioneering fight for women’s suffrage anchor a section that also includes the works of her contemporary Mark Twain.

Additional thematic groupings showcase treasures such as Audubon’s spectacular Birds of America, Henry David Thoreau’s original manuscript of Walden, and Henry E. Huntington’s prized copy of the Gutenberg Bible -- the first book printed in the West from movable type.

The Exhibition Hall itself was built as the original library reading room in 1920. It provides a beautiful setting for these highlights while reflecting the building’s historic past. Along with the 2012 restoration of the original marble and cork floor, three dramatic chandeliers have been fabricated based on archival photographs of the original fixtures to evoke the space as it looked in Henry Huntington’s day. A former “Trustees Room” off the entrance foyer offers a multimedia look at day-to-day Library activities that are hidden from public view, including scholarly research and conservation activities.

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