The world-renowned Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational center serving scholars and the general public. Surrounded by 120 acres of breathtaking grounds highlighting diverse botanical collections are two art galleries and a library showcasing magnificent collections of rare books and manuscripts, European art from the 15th to the early 20th century, and American art from the late 17th to the mid 20th century. There is also a large gallery for special temporary exhibitions that interpret the collections. Each year, more than 750,000 visitors from around the world enjoy The Huntington, and more than 1,700 researchers conduct scholarly studies among the vast collections.
The Huntington was founded by railroad and real estate magnate Henry Edwards Huntington in 1919. The museum and gardens opened to the public in 1928. The private, nonprofit institution is supported by gifts from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies, and...by a private endowment that provides about 40 percent of the institution’s annual operating budget.
At the heart of The Huntington is the Library, which contains nearly 9 million manuscripts, books, photographs and other works in the fields of American and British history, literature, art, and the history of science, medicine, and technology. Among the highlights of the collection are the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1410); a Gutenberg Bible (ca. 1450–55); a world-class collection of early editions of Shakespeare; original letters of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln; an unsurpassed collection of materials relating to the history of the American West; and outstanding holdings in the history of science and technology.
The Huntington Art Gallery is housed in the original Beaux Arts mansion built for Henry and Arabella Huntington in 1911. The former residence is home to a world-famous collection of British paintings, notably Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie, Joshua Reynolds’ Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, and works by John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, George Romney, and Anthony Van Dyck. In addition, it showcases a fine collection of French decorative arts and Renaissance paintings, including Rogier van der Weyden’s 15th-century masterpiece Virgin and Child, considered by many to be the most important painting at The Huntington. In total, the European art collections include about 420 paintings, approximately 370 works of sculpture, more than 2,500 decorative art objects, and 20,000 prints and drawings.
Just a short walk across the Shakespeare Garden are the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, where American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, including works by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Frederic Remington, Gilbert Stuart, Edward Hopper, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Andy Warhol are on display. The American art holdings now number about 245 paintings, 60 works of sculpture, 990 decorative art objects, 8,500 prints and drawings, and about 1,800 photographs.
Smaller, focused exhibitions are presented in the Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing of the Scott Galleries and in the Works on Paper Room of the Huntington Art Gallery. Major changing exhibitions are presented in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, a historic building (originally Henry and Arabella Huntington’s elegant garage, built in 1911) that was renovated as an exhibition space in 1999.
The Botanical Gardens contain more than 15,000 different kinds of plants in more than a dozen principal garden areas, including the Japanese, Rose, Shakespeare, Camellia, Jungle, Palm, and Australian gardens. The newest of these is the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Liu Fang Yuan, The Huntington’s Chinese arden, the first phase of which opened in February 2008. It features a lake, bridges, pavilions, and a teahouse, all built with exquisite craftsmanship by artisans from China. The spectacular 10-acre Desert Garden includes nearly 4,000 species of desert plants in a variety of unusual shapes, forms, and colors that are a delight to visitors year round. The beautiful North Vista, framing a view of the San Gabriel Mountains, is flanked by 18th-century statuary and several acres of camellias. In the 100-year-old Japanese Garden, a 19th-century style Japanese house overlooks a moon bridge spanning a large koi pond. A new ceremonial teahouse is located on a ridge with an expansive view of the historic landscape, part of a major 2012 renovation of the garden.
Botanical education has become central to The Huntington’s mission; The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science, opened in fall 2005, engages middle-school students and their families in inquiry-based learning about plants, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Adjacent to the Conservatory is the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden, which introduces youngsters to the wonders of the natural world in a playful one-acre garden with interactive elements based on the themes of earth, air, light, and water.
The collections form the basis for advanced humanities research, and each year The Huntington awards approximately $1.5 million to scholars through a competitive, peer-review process, providing them with an opportunity to study here. The collections also provide a multitude of educational opportunities through school programs, teacher education, and special events for children and families.