Let’s Get Oriented

The new Mapel Orientation Gallery offers historic and behind-the-scenes information on The Huntington, as well as a variety of imaginative things to see, hear, and smell.

The new Mapel Orientation Gallery offers historic and behind-the-scenes information on The Huntington, as well as a variety of imaginative things to see, hear, and smell.

Did you know that the Huntington property was once home to the first commercial avocado orchard in Southern California? That in 1910, Henry Huntington’s network of trolley cars, the Pacific Electric “Red Cars,” stretched over 1,300 miles across Los Angeles? That in Huntington’s day, the temple bell in the Japanese Garden rang each afternoon to signal the arrival of the newspaper?

These intriguing tidbits, and many more, are awaiting you at the new Mapel Orientation Gallery, part of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center that is opening Saturday, April 4. The space is the brainchild of Karina White, senior gallery designer at The Huntington. White helped create the smart, engaging permanent exhibitions in The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory, the Library Main Hall, and the Dibner Hall of the History of Science. And now she’s done it again!

Instagram shots snapped by visitors and tagged #AtTheH may show up on this wall, along with handwritten tips.

Instagram shots snapped by visitors and tagged #AtTheH may show up on this wall, along with handwritten tips.

In three sections occupying more than 2,000 square feet of former bookstore space, a series of displays welcome Huntington visitors. Here you can gain a quick sense of what there is to see and do; learn fascinating background on founder Henry Huntington, his family, and his times; and enjoy a delicious primer on The Huntington’s collections, and understand how they’re being used in research and education.

Walk through the doors, and it’s a veritable feast for the senses. Projected on either side of the doorway are silent, poetic films by Los Angeles–area artists Rick Bahto, Charlotte Pryce, and Steve Roden. Each took a camera in hand to explore objects from our collections and spaces that you can see during your visit. Their short films run in a loop—and the results are mesmerizing. Even if you think you know a good deal about Huntington history, take 10 minutes to watch our new movie on the subject; it’s a treasure trove of information and spectacular visuals, cooked up by talented, young L.A. filmmaker Cosmo Segurson.

Take a peek at work going on at The Huntington. Or lift a headphone to hear a collage of sounds, from staff members talking about their favorite objects in the collections, to the sounds of footsteps in the galleries.

Take a peek at work going on at The Huntington. Or lift a headphone to hear a collage of sounds, from staff members talking about their favorite objects in the collections, to the sounds of footsteps in the galleries.

Speaking of senses, don’t miss our “scent bar.” Pick up a wooden bowl and take a big whiff. Scents of wild sage, roses, or orange blossoms bring you back to the fragrances in the air a century ago.

And if you’ve never seen a Red Car, you’re in for a treat: we pulled out The Huntington’s very own model, asked our conservators to spiff it up, and put it on display. Those of us who contend with regular tie-ups on the freeways are likely to look on its demise with some regret.

On one wall of the gallery, we provide visitors with a glimpse into what our researchers, educators, conservators, and curators are doing. More than 400 people work at The Huntington, and you can hear their voices, too—in short audio pieces where staff members give their own take on this magical place.

Get the scoop on how Henry Edwards Huntington married his late uncle’s wife, Arabella Duval Huntington, creating a formidable power couple.

Get the scoop on how Henry Edwards Huntington married his late uncle’s wife, Arabella Duval Huntington, creating a formidable power couple.

If you’re wondering where to start your visit, then why not try one of our “quirky tours”? As in the “I Need to Chill Out” tour, or the “I Love the Macabre” tour, or “The Wanderlust” tour. They may lead you in very unexpected directions.

Before you leave, take a minute to read visitor recommendations on what to see and do, or jot down some of your own. And if you’re the kind of person who favors the visual, you’ll also find a rotating selection of visitors’ Instagram shots, curated by Huntington staff. So if you’re here, and you’re on Instagram, tag your best photo with #AtTheH for a chance to be featured on this wall. We love seeing what catches your eye!

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

7 thoughts on “Let’s Get Oriented

  1. But what about the Gift Shop? You have one of the best museum gift shops around….where did you put it?

    • Hi Cathy. Thanks for your note. The store opened in a new space in January and you can read about it here. It has twice the space of the previous store and is filled with a huge selection of unique, beautiful objects related to our library, art, and botanical collections. If you liked the last store, I think you’ll love the new one!

  2. Hi Huntington! I am curious as to how many members you have and the various types of memberships you offer? Thank you!

  3. Pingback: » Quirky Tours

  4. Last night I attended the last Evening Garden Stroll. As I renewed my membership I
    inquired about what was open. I was told the 10 minute movie was not available. Turns out the movie was being shown to my great delight. Seeing the new Cafe was open I was disappointed not to have any sandwiches or salads offered. All were sold out by 6PM! This on a very hot evening left me hungry.
    I’m not sure why this happened but word spread quickly there was limited food supply. Also the fragrance wooden bowls in the Mapel Orientation Gallery had little or no aroma. One of the staff on duty had no idea what i was asking about to get a smell from this display. Also is there any way to partition off the movie area from the
    loudness of the visitors themselves?
    As a docent I’m very proud of this magnificent addition. The design is so good it looks like it has always been there. Congratulations.

    • Hi, Katherine. Thanks for renewing your membership! We appreciate your comments and suggestions and are sorry that there were some kinks in the evening — hopefully we can get those worked out for next time. Happy, though, that you’re enjoying the new addition!

      Best,
      Kate Lain
      New Media Developer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *