Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Want to find some culture in the Los Angeles area without the crowds and traffic? Need a respite from the city’s over-hyped glitz and touristy trinkets? Whether you’re hanging out for a few days with friends or a significant other, flying solo on a business trip, or vacationing with the whole family in tow, you needn’t drive far. Your escape is only a short drive away, but worlds apart from city life.
In fact, you can meditate in a Zen garden, get lost in a tropical forest, or have tea in an English garden…all in the same day. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, there are galleries chock-full of British, French and American art, and a library exhibition hall displaying ancient and rare books and manuscripts. (Of particular interest: Thomas Gainsborough’s masterpiece The Blue Boy and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.) And if you’ve got little ones with you, there are various children’s activities to educate and entertain their brains.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1919 by railroad and real estate developer Henry Edwards Huntington, along with his wife Arabella. In addition to being a key land developer of southern California in the early 20 th century, Henry was also an avid collector of rare and unique tokens of art and history. By the time he opened his institution to the public in 1928, he and his wife had amassed an extensive collection of British and American literature and art, as well as rare plants.
A virtual playground for culture seekers of all ages, The Huntington is located in San Marino, California, outside Pasadena, approximately 12 miles northeast of L.A. It’s a bibliophile’s dream, an art historian’s heaven, and a landscape lover’s retreat.
On A Mission
“Building on Henry E. Huntington’s legacy of renowned collections and botanical gardens that enrich the visitor, The Huntington today encourages research and promotes education in the arts, humanities, and botanical sciences through the growth and preservation of its collections, through the development and support of a community of scholars, and through the display and interpretation of its extraordinary resources to the public.” That is the mission of The Huntington. And it has done just that.
So while the art collections still focus on 18 th century British and French art, as well as 18 th through 20 th century American art, the Huntington has expanded its collections to include objects from the same time periods: sculpture, furniture, drawings, watercolors, tapestries, porcelain and silver. And the collections continue to grow, both by gift donations and through purchases. The Huntington regularly features rotating art exhibits from its extensive archived collections, as well as traveling exhibits from museums throughout the world.
The Huntington has achieved quite a feat in the field of literature, too. The library’s rare books and manuscripts comprise one of the world’s largest collections. In particular, their Shakespeare collection is one of the four largest that exist in the world. Domestically, the collections are one of the most extensively used in America outside of the Library of Congress. Researchers use these texts to produce scholarly articles in their chosen field, which then become the basis for textbooks that are used in educational institutions across the nation. In fact, education is a topic that The Huntington takes very seriously. The institution regularly serves some 20,000 school children in the Los Angeles area by providing extensive, informal on-site programs in the areas of botany, art and literature.
But let’s not forget the greenery. The botanical gardens, after all, are one of the first things you see when you arrive, and they are hard to miss. Twelve different thematic areas are spread out over 150 acres and include over 14,000 species of plants. Want to see beauty at its finest? Head to the Rose Garden. Looking to relax and truly get away from it all? Find a comfortable spot in the peaceful Japanese Garden. Rather take a walk on the wild side? No problem—meander your way through the Jungle Garden. (Currently being built: a 12-acre Chinese garden, the largest outside of China.)
If you want to visit The Huntington, plan to spend a
whole day here, if not more—and bring good walking shoes. For more
information, including hours and admission prices, visit their website: http://www.huntington.org.