Lights…

Chandelier_1

One of three new chandeliers in the Library Main Exhibition Hall.

Don’t forget to look up next month when you visit the new permanent exhibition “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights from the Huntington Library.” Beginning Nov. 9, you’ll be able to re-enter the Library Main Exhibition Hall for the first time since it closed for renovation 17 months ago. And hanging above the 150 rare books, manuscripts, and photographs will be three chandeliers that have a remarkable story of their own.

Over the past year and a half, exhibition designer Karina White has paid equal attention to both the rare items that will be on display and the architectural features of the building, including the wood-paneled walls, marble and cork floors, and distinctive chandeliers.

OldChandelier

Historic photo of the original chandeliers.

To complete this restoration, White looked through old records related to the original construction and decoration of the hall. She sifted through early correspondence between Archer Huntington (son of Arabella Huntington), and Myron Hunt, the architect designing the library; sketches of the interior and exterior; photographs of the completed reading room/exhibition hall; and invoices by William Hertrich regarding the now-closed south-facing windows.

The walls and the floors were fairly straightforward; the chandeliers were not. Despite White’s efforts, no plans or purchase details were found. What she did find, however, were photographs of the original chandeliers, dated from 1920, when the building was under construction. These photographs then served as blueprints for the redesign and construction of three new chandeliers.

“Having these chandeliers built and installed was a huge thrill,” says White. “I think everyone involved has been both challenged and gratified by the process of using archival photographs to create three chandeliers of significant beauty.”

Paul Ivazes Quality Lighting in Grass Valley, Calif., built the chandeliers. After some detailed computer rendering, Quality Lighting created the new chandeliers out of cast plaster, attaching the pieces to a steel frame. The new chandeliers can be raised and lowered with the original pulley-system located in an attic space above the exhibition hall. The chandeliers’ warm glow comes from the light of LED modules, one significant change from the originals: they use just a fraction of the energy of the originals.

For more images of the installation, including animated GIFs, visit The Huntington’s Tumblr.

Jennifer Allan Goldman is a manuscripts curator and the institutional archivist at The Huntington.

ChandelierInstall

Wes Ivazes makes some final adjustments to one of the chandeliers.

3 thoughts on “Lights…

    • Nice catch! Archer was indeed not Henry’s son-in-law. But he was not Henry’s stepson, either. He was Arabella’s son. And Henry and Arabella married when Archer was already in his 40s. Archer had, however, been adopted by Arabella’s former husband, who was none other than Collis Huntington, Henry’s uncle. Which means that, amusingly enough, Henry and Archer were actually cousins at one point. But for the sake of simplicity, we’re amending the blog post to read “…Archer Huntington (son of Arabella Huntington)…” Thank you for your careful read!

      Kate Lain
      New Media Developer
      The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

  1. You can be sure I will check these out next month. I was amused by the use of the term “blueprint”–took me back to high school days in the 1950s when I took a course in mechanical drawing and used the sun to make an actual blueprint of a drawing. I suspect that finding “old school” blueprint paper nowadays would be like trying to locate carbon-filament lamps for the chandeliers. When I worked for Southern Calif. Edison, I would sometime have to route cables in old, old substation buildings. A useful resource would be the station drawings files. One day I was doing a “lookup” in the Magunden Sub near Bakersfield, and came upon some documents with “Pacific Light & Power” in the title block. I felt like I had found papyrus from the tomb of King Tut. Or at least paper from before 1917, when Mr. Huntington sold PL&P to SCE.

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