Philip D. Nathanson Endows Curator of Photography

A person signs a document at an office table.
Philip D. Nathanson signs the agreement to endow the curator of photography.

“I first came to The Huntington in 1962 as a kid from Connecticut, and I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it,” Philip D. Nathanson says. A longtime collector of 19th-century American photography, Nathanson returned to The Huntington to conduct research on the images he had acquired.

Over the ensuing decades, his involvement steadily grew: He joined the Society of Fellows, the Arabella and Henry Huntington Heritage Society, the Library Collectors’ Council, the Art Collectors’ Council, and The Huntington’s Board of Governors.

Throughout his journey, The Huntington’s Library has remained close to his heart. Early in 2024, Nathanson endowed The Huntington’s curator of photography position. “I donated because The Huntington has enriched my life,” Nathanson says. “It was time to give back.” He speaks highly of Linde Lehtinen, the inaugural Philip D. Nathanson Curator of Photography, saying, “Linde is the perfect person to carry on the collecting and exhibition of important historical photography at The Huntington.”

In her role as the Philip D. Nathanson Curator of Photography, Lehtinen oversees the Huntington Library’s extensive collections of more than 800,000 photographs. The collections, which span from the 1850s to the present, include outstanding examples of a wide variety of print and negative processes and photographic formats. The principal regional focus is California and the American West. The photographic collections are unparalleled in their documentation of greater Los Angeles’ transition from pastoral landscape to thriving metropolis.

Three people stand together with drink glasses in their hands.
Sandra Brooke Gordon (left), Avery Director of the Library, and Philip D. Nathanson toast Linde Lehtinen as the inaugural Philip D. Nathanson Curator of Photography.

Endowment gifts are vital and a farsighted gesture, as they provide a steady source of funding year after year. “We’re beholden to Phil for his vision and generosity,” says Sandra Brooke Gordon, the Avery Director of the Library. “The Library’s extraordinary photo collections will grow and find new audiences—scholarly to general—long into the future, thanks to the endowment of the Philip D. Nathanson Curator of Photography.”

In addition to his endowment gift, Nathanson has included The Huntington as a beneficiary of his estate plan, underscoring his commitment to the institution and its mission far into the future.

To commemorate establishing the endowment, Nathanson also donated a hand-colored daguerreotype taken in Coloma, California, near Sutter’s Mill, ca. 1850–51, during California’s gold rush era. This daguerreotype is notable for its striking clarity, its early date, and the presence of Chinese laborers in the image—a rarity in photographs of the era.

In 2023, Nathanson donated a collection of some 4,000 stereographs to the Library, depicting Southern California from the 1860s to 1910. “As Phil and I researched together, looking at photographs in The Huntington’s collections and those Phil had purchased over the years, we realized that Phil’s collection beautifully rounds out what The Huntington already had,” Lehtinen says. “These collections complement each other, creating something greater than the sum of its parts.”

An 1850s photo of miners digging for gold.

Nathanson donated to The Huntington a hand-colored daguerreotype of miners excavating for gold, taken in Coloma, California, near Sutter’s Mill, ca. 1850–51. | The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

If you’d like to discuss establishing an endowment at The Huntington, please contact Amanda Greenberger at 626-405-2263 or