Office of the President
Laura Skandera Trombley
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015 - Synchronicity, a term first coined by Carl Jung in the 1920s, holds that certain events can be considered “meaningful coincidences” if they happen with no apparent causal relationship yet appear to be connected. The synchronicity occurs in their coming together, and when a greater understanding and synthesis is attained. After completing my first quarter at The Huntington, my sense is that synchronicity defines our institution’s history (nearly a century now), as well as our collections and exhibitions.
Here is The Huntington’s latest synchronicitous moment: Our nation is roughly a year away from electing its 45th president, and this fall and in the months ahead, The Huntington will be exploring the concept of what it is to be American and how both national and international influences have shaped American culture.
In September, we heard from Justice Stephen Breyer about the challenges of interpreting the U.S. Constitution in an international legal environment, all in connection with our Magna Carta exhibition and moderated by the Honorable Frances Rothschild. That same month, a selection of the earliest works from The Huntington’s American art collection took center stage in a temporary installation in the Boone Gallery (continuing through Jan. 5) spotlighting great paintings and works of decorative art from the Colonial period to the mid-19th century.
Then in October, a focused loan show opened, exploring 20th-century artists’ depiction of crowds in American public life. From patriotic parades to baseball games, from subway stations to angry riots, crowds form and disperse with a restless energy that has captivated many American artists. George Bellows, Walker Evans, and Weegee are among the artists whose unique depictions of these teeming masses are included.
And then, moving from artistic interpretation to an examination of historical facts, we obtain a completely different take on the topic with an exhibition opening in November in the West Hall of the Library: “Y.C. Hong: Advocate for Chinese-American Inclusion.” The show is drawn entirely from our You Chung Hong family papers. Hong was one of the first Chinese Americans to pass the California Bar and was a major figure in the Los Angeles Chinese community during the period of the Chinese Exclusion Act. He was an authority on U.S. immigration laws who actively sought equal rights for Chinese Americans, lobbying U.S. senators and California governors to fight for Chinese inclusion. His is the inspiring story of a man determined to make equal rights a reality for Chinese-American immigrants. This extraordinary opportunity to learn about our shared history, our politics, and ourselves, was made possible by the Hong family’s generosity in donating the You Chung Hong papers to The Huntington.
Immigration is an issue that is far from being reconciled in terms of how America views itself and its shared future. Historical papers like the Y.C. Hong archive make this story come to life once more, and make it relevant for all of us—and especially to younger people who are coming of age at a time when immigration dominates the headlines and political discourse. As John F. Kennedy said: “The interaction of disparate cultures, the vehemence of the ideals that led the immigrants here, the opportunity offered by a new life, all gave America a flavor and a character that make it as unmistakable and as remarkable to people today as it was to Alexis de Tocqueville in the early part of the 19th century.” Hong’s experience—a life lived with extraordinary vigor, purpose, and tenacity—captures the essence of what it means to challenge the status quo and to be an American.
Laura Skandera Trombley, President