Stories We Tell: Founders’ Day at The Huntington

In honor of Founders’ Day 2023, The Huntington and The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West present a mix of serious and quirky stories demonstrating the broad range of The Huntington's collections.

The Huntington and The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West present a mix of serious and quirky stories—inspired by Eve Babitz’s archive, The Huntington’s Montezuma cypress, portraits by Laura Aguilar, the Horatio Nelson Rust collection, and glass plate photographs of 1890s and 1900s Chinatown—demonstrating the broad range of The Huntington’s collections and the rich history of the institution’s location in the San Gabriel Valley.

The Program

The event—with an introduction by Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence and moderated by William Deverell, director of The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West—will feature the following speakers:

Sean Lahmeyer, Plant Collections and Conservation Manager, The Huntington
Silas Munro, Partner, Polymode & Faculty Co-Chair, MFA in Graphic design at Vermont College of Fine Arts
Karla Nielsen, Curator of Literary Collections, The Huntington
Pilar Tompkins Rivas, Chief Curator and Deputy Director of Curatorial and Collections, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Li Wei Yang, Curator of Pacific Rim Collections, The Huntington

  • Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
  • Seating in Rothenberg Hall is first-come, first served.
  • ​​​Overflow seating will be available in the Education and Visitor Center.
  • This event will be recorded and available to view after the program.
  • Attendees will have the opportunity to submit a question for the speakers during the registration process.

About the Speakers

William Deverell
William Deverell is Director of The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and a professor of History, Spatial Sciences, and Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California. An American historian with a focus on the 19th and 20th century American West, he is the 2023 President of the Western History Association. Deverell is also a founding director of the Los Angeles Service Academy, a high school outreach initiative that teaches high school students about the infrastructural networks of Southern California ( His current projects include the Chinatown History Project and the West on Fire initiative.

Sean Lahmeyer
Sean Lahmeyer serves as The Huntington’s Plant Collections and Conservation Manager providing programmatic, curatorial, and administrative leadership, as well as coordinating all ex-situ conservation activities, including a botanical research program, the tissue culture lab, seed bank, and herbarium. Sean has also been an adjunct instructor of biology—specializing in botany—at Pasadena City College since 2007. Sean has been featured in online articles, has been published in botanical journals, and was a recent guest on the popular plant podcast “In Defense of Plants”.

Silas Munro
Silas Munro is faculty co-chair for the MFA Program in graphic design at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His design studio, Polymode, primarily works with cultural institutions and community-based organizations, including collaborations with David Kordansky Gallery, MOCA, MoMA, The New Museum, and the Walker Art Center. He was the designer of Past Due, a report for The Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group made in collaboration with The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, with assistance from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Karla Nielsen
Karla Nielsen stewards The Huntington's archival and print holdings in literature, publishing, journalism, and the performing arts. With curatorial and academic experience ranging from the late medieval period to the present, she has presented and published on literary artifacts ranging from the Ellesmere Chaucer to a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses seized by U.S. Customs in 1933. At The Huntington, she curated the exhibition "Mapping Fiction" in 2022 and is currently preparing an exhibition on 19th-century climate change awareness for Pacific Standard Time 2024.

Pilar Tompkins Rivas
As chief curator and deputy director of curatorial and collections at the Lucas Museum, Tompkins Rivas provides leadership, strategic direction, and managerial oversight for curatorial, exhibitions, acquisitions, collections management, conservation, archives, and publications. She previously served as Director and Chief Curator at the Vincent Price Art Museum, where she spearheaded partnerships between the museum and the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and The Huntington, and launched diversity pipeline programs including a museum studies certificate program.

Li Wei Yang
Li Wei Yang is Curator of Pacific Rim Collections at The Huntington. His first Huntington exhibition, "Y.C. Hong: Advocate for Chinese American Inclusion," was on view in 2015. In 2020, Li Wei was part of The Huntington, Los Angeles Public Library, and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles team that curated "Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown," an outdoor exhibit located in L.A. Chinatown’s Central Plaza and online. His next exhibition, "Printed in 1085," will focus on The Huntington’s oldest printed book and is scheduled to go on view in April 2023.

Founders' Day is observed annually at The Huntington in honor of Henry and Arabella Huntington's roles in envisioning and establishing the institution.

Stories We Tell: Founders' Day at The Huntington is presented by the Office of the President and The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

For visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing, assistive listening devices (ALD), sign language interpretation, and real-time captioning are available for all public events; please email or call 626-405-3549 at least 10 days in advance of the event to make arrangements.