The Huntington lost a good friend and supporter recently when Carol Pearson passed away in her sleep on March 7, 2013. Carol first came to The Huntington in 1958 to work for the publications department. More than 50 years later, she was still seen frequently on campus, most recently volunteering in the botanical division as well as assisting with the proofreading of Shelley M. Bennett’s forthcoming book on the history of the Huntingtons in the Gilded Age.
As a freelancer, Carol typed (yes, typed) manuscripts and indexed books for visiting scholars. She was the research assistant for the Huntington classic, A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West: The Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote, edited by Rodman W. Paul. In his introduction, Paul thanked her for her “stellar performance” and for her “resourcefulness and her enthusiasm for the project [which] kept her searching long after a lesser person would have quit.” It was surely one of her favorite projects.
Once when I was writing an essay on indexing, she shared with me one of her favorite entries: “blood, as beverage” in John Reid’s Policing the Elephant (sometimes indexers can have a quirky sense of humor). Reid’s corresponding passage detailed a thirsty party of pioneers on the overland trail that slaughtered one of their oxen and drank the blood. They reported that they became more thirsty.
She took on projects in many parts of the institution. For the rare books department she cataloged thousands of titles for the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC), a database of almost 500,000 items printed in the British Isles and North America between 1473 and 1800. Roy Ritchie, former director of research, acknowledged the importance of this database to scholars at Carol’s memorial service. When the Southern California office of the Archives of American Art was at The Huntington, she transcribed midcentury artist Millard Sheets’ oral history. Most recently, Carol and I worked together to organize 13 file cabinets of the papers of Bargyla Rateaver, a writer, educator, and world authority on the organic method of growing plants. Dr. Rateaver had planned to write an encyclopedia on the subject. After we organized the files, Carol entered the file numbers and subjects into a database now accessible to researchers.
I first met Carol at The Huntington’s bridge table 30 years ago. Lunchtime bridge with staff and scholars is a Huntington tradition dating back to the 1930s. While the number of players has dwindled, there are still usually four, enough for a game. As the senior player, Carol continued to teach us, ever so patiently, the finer points of the game.
Carol cared deeply about The Huntington. As Dr. Ritchie pointed out at her service, we can think of Carol whenever we see the garden fountains because she established a fund to support their maintenance.
Peggy Park Bernal is former director of the Huntington Library Press.