Before we say goodbye to 2014, we invite you to enjoy a dozen highlights selected from the year’s Verso posts. Take a peek behind the scenes at The Huntington and meet some of the staff members and volunteers who help make it a special place. Visit some of our spectacular events and exhibitions, and learn about education programs that are introducing younger generations to The Huntington. And delve into some of the lesser-known details about our vast library, art, and botanical collections. In chronological order, here are some of our favorites.
- We celebrated the 138th birthday of author Jack London back in January, showcasing a range of objects from The Huntington’s 50,000-item archive, which includes the charred manuscript of his novel Sea-Wolf, a victim of fire in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Read “To Build a Fire.”
- In February, we introduced you to volunteer docent Sandra Mader—a retired high school teacher, librarian, and education administrator—who leads school tours through the Chinese Garden, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. She invites students to open their minds to their experience by composing couplets that evoke the garden’s calm joy. Read “Coaxing Beauty.”
- When the film 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture in March, we shared with you excerpts from the diaries and letters of John Burrud, an officer in the 160th Regiment of the New York Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. Burrud documented his experiences in 1863 near the Louisiana plantation where Solomon Northrup, a freeborn African American and author of the 1853 book Twelve Years a Slave, endured hard labor and torture. Read “Where Solomon Northup Was a Slave.”
- We applauded the announcement in April that historian Alan Taylor had won his second Pulitzer Prize in History for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832. Taylor completed the book’s manuscript while in residence at The Huntington as the first Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow in Early American History. Read “Alan Taylor Wins Second Pulitzer Prize.”
- In May, you got a peek into the inner workings of The Huntington’s conservation lab, where conservators hone and wield an array of sharp knives to repair aging books. Read “Knife to the Grindstone.”
- In 2013, Mary Robertson retired as the William A. Moffett Curator of British Historical Manuscripts. For decades, she made The Huntington’s important holdings of British history discoverable and accessible to generations of scholars around the world. In May, we shared a tribute to Robertson by Steve Hindle, The Huntington’s W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research. Read “Smoothing the Path.”
- To mark the 50th anniversary of a 1964 commemorative stamp of President John F. Kennedy, we posted the story of how The Huntington acquired a photograph taken in 1958 of then-Senator Kennedy—whose wife, Jacqueline, chose the photo as the basis for his image on the stamp. Read “Something Waited For.”
- In July, we told you about The Huntington’s partnership with Eliot Middle School, a visual and performing arts magnet school in the Pasadena Unified School District. It’s one of our four partner schools, and the first middle school. Teachers, students, and their families benefit from the partnership, which helps students integrate what they learn in the classroom into what they encounter in The Huntington’s extraordinary collections. Read “Making It Real.”
- Each year, nearly 200 professors and graduate students receive funding to conduct research at The Huntington through fellowships ranging from one month to a full year in residence. The grants total $1.7 million, with about 30 percent of awards going to scholars from outside of the United States. The recipients for 2014–15 are listed here and include scholars who specialize in literature, the history of science, and the American Civil War, among other fields. In August, we showed you these grantees busily at work in the Ahmanson Reading Room of the Munger Research Center. Read “The Library Tomorrow.”
- Who could forget the fragrance, or rather odor, of the imposing Corpse Flower? We couldn’t let you sniff it via Verso, but in September, we provided you with dazzling photo-documentation and a time-lapse video of its blooming, as well as a reflection on why we feel compelled to capture such events so minutely and variously in our digital age. Read “Picturing a Bloom.”
- In October, we told you that acclaimed portrait artist Don Bachardy was visiting Berlin to commemorate a slew of anniversaries celebrating the life and novels of his longtime partner, Christopher Isherwood. The Huntington holds a vast archive of materials by Isherwood, the author of A Single Man and Goodbye to Berlin (the latter the basis for the musical Cabaret). The collection includes several drafts of A Single Man, as well as letters from W. H. Auden, Truman Capote, and E. M. Forster. The Huntington acquired the material from Bachardy in 1999 along with 50 of his own works—drawings and paintings depicting the couple’s friends from literary and cinematic circles, including Julie Harris, Aldous Huxley, Anaïs Nin, and Dorothy Parker. Read “Two Singular Men, One Berlin.”
Thank you for reading us all year round. We look forward to sharing many more indelible stories with you in 2015.
Kevin Durkin is managing editor for the office of communications at The Huntington.