Carla Hayden and Huntington President Karen Lawrence

Office of the President

Welcome

Jan. 11, 2023 - Happy New Year!

At our Centennial launch on Sept. 5, 2019, inaugurating what was to be a yearlong celebration, I welcomed The Huntington community, as well as attendees from other civic, academic, and cultural institutions, and said, “For a person turning 100, it is very natural to look back and reflect on the past. For an institution turning 100, a centennial is a moment to be like the Roman god Janus: looking back and forward at the same time. So today, we celebrate how far we have come and reflect on where we want to go.”

Roman coin depicting the god Janus
Roman coin depicting the god Janus.

The month of January is named for Janus. As we start a new year, I return to this god of duality—of beginnings and endings, transitions and passages, gates, and frames. The major exhibition of our Centennial, “Nineteen Nineteen,” looked back on The Huntington’s founding in 1919, a tumultuous year both locally and globally, with materials predominantly from our collections. Images on display included a photograph of Pasadena residents wearing masks to protect themselves during the influenza pandemic of 1918. That image, which in the fall of 2019 seemed safely ensconced in the past, proved cruelly prophetic. As we all know, The Huntington shut down about halfway through our Centennial year, like much of the rest of the world. And, suddenly, our own framework for interpreting the historical photo in our exhibition—and our relationship to it—radically changed. Realizing that we ourselves were in a significant historical moment, our photographers documented a Huntington devoid of people, imagining a hypothetical viewer looking back at us 100 years from now.

In On the Genealogy of Morals, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche speaks of the changing nature of historical approaches to the past: “Anything in existence, having somehow come about, is continually interpreted anew, requisitioned anew, transformed and redirected to a new purpose.” This reinterpretation is crucial to our own Research fellowship program, which plays a central role in our mission. The scholars who come to study these collections don’t just discover a renewable source of energy to fuel their own work (although they do that, too). They also find new ways of reframing and even redirecting the past. As we seek to implement the strategic plan adopted in February 2022, turning our priorities and commitments into reality, one of our major priorities is to magnify the impact of our collections and share them with a wider range of interpreters.

One step in this process occurred in November at The Huntington, when we sponsored and hosted a Research conference called “Imagining Shakespeare in 2050: Performance and Archives.” Just like Janus, this conference looked back 400 years to look forward, asking: “How, when, where, and why will we turn to Shakespeare in 2050?” The Huntington houses one of the world’s great collections of Shakespeare’s works, so it is a fitting place to consider such large, important questions. Organized by Ayanna Thompson of Arizona State University, the conference not only speculated on the future of Shakespeare studies (that might have been enough!) but also of theater and the archives. Professor Thompson’s Verso blog post—“What Is the Future of Shakespeare?”—framed these questions.

The relevance of Shakespeare’s plays today—both to new generations of students studying his work and to contemporary theater audiences—was the topic of the first panel of the conference. Moderated by Shakespearean scholar Ian Smith, who is now in residence at The Huntington as a Research fellow, it featured three directors of Shakespeare companies: Erica Whyman, director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England; Barry Edelstein, director of The Old Globe in San Diego; and Carl Cofield, associate director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem in New York. These Shakespeareans—who live and breathe Shakespeare—focused on how new productions can mine his brilliance, to resonate deeply with community audiences and to liberate appreciation of his dramatic and literary power from cultural awe and intimidation. They spoke of performing a “living Shakespeare” by creating a space to “unleash emotions hard to navigate in other ways—violence, grief, rage, and a way to see oneself in the works of this most canonical of authors.” They focused on how their productions seek to make Shakespeare into a gateway, or, as Edelstein put it, “a magnet that has brought communities together.” Although this conference was not the first time The Huntington has sought to engage new generations and communities through Shakespeare—in 2015, students from the East Los Angeles Performing Arts Academy at Esteban E. Torres High School performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Huntington—it was a powerful reminder of how our institution can use, examine, and “requisition anew” the extraordinarily rich cultural archives of the past.

Happy New Year!

Karen R. Lawrence, President

ONE HUNTINGTON: Strategic Plan FY 2023–27
“What is the Future of Shakespeare?” by Ayanna Thompson


Billie Tsien and Erin Chase

The Soul of a Building: In the Archives with Billie Tsien

Architect Billie Tsien joins Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture at The Huntington, for a behind-the-scenes visit to see some of the architectural materials in the library archives. This video was produced as part of the Why It Matters program, sponsored by the Office of the President.

Karen R. Lawrence and Billie Tsien in conversation on a stage.

Why It Matters: Billie Tsien in Conversation with Karen R. Lawrence

Nov. 7, 2022 - Architect and educator Billie Tsien joins Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence to discuss how the built environment shapes individual and communal experiences, the interplay between design and purpose, and how architecture can empower future generations. Read Making a Better World through Architecture, or watch the recorded event.

Huntington president Karen R. Lawrence in front of Octavia E. Butler image

Octavia E. Butler inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame

Hear President Karen R. Lawrence speak about Butler's literary collection at The Huntington in this clip from the recorded ceremony. Additional inductees honored this year include Judy Chicago, Rebecca Halstead, Joy Harjo, Emily Howland, Katherine Johnson, Indra Nooyi, and Michelle Obama. View the full program.

closeup of book page

President Karen Lawrence Joins U22 The Centenary Ulysses Podcast

In the first episode of U22 The Centenary Ulysses Podcast, we talk about how Ulysses begins. We’re joined by Karen Lawrence, President of the Huntington Library, John Higgins of the University of Cape Town, and Jamie Salomon, leader of the Bloomsday Ulysses Reading Group for the Montreal Literary Festival. We hear their thoughts on everything from style to playing amateur archeologists.

President Karen Lawrence and The Huntington's senior leadership team

President Karen Lawrence (center) with The Huntington's senior leadership team. (L-R): Elee Wood, Misty Bennett, Christina Nielsen, Randy Shulman, Heather Hart, Nicole Cavender, Susan Turner-Lowe, Janet Alberti, Thomas Polansky, Sandra Brooke, and Steve Hindle.

President Karen Lawrence (far right) with participants in Octavia Butler’s Parables: A Music Talk with Toshi Reagon. (L-R): Sophie Kim, Phil Allen, Shelley De Leon, Juliette Jones, Toshi Reagon, Claudia L. Peña, Melodie Yashar, and Tamisha A. Tyler.

President Karen Lawrence (far right) with participants in Octavia Butler's Parables: A Music Talk with Toshi Reagon. (L-R): Sophie Kim, Phil Allen, Shelley De Leon, Juliette Jones, Toshi Reagon, Claudia L. Peña, Melodie Yashar, and Tamisha A. Tyler.

Huntington staff celebrating The Huntington’s Centennial in August 2019

Huntington staff celebrating The Huntington's Centennial in August 2019.

President Karen Lawrence (center left) with The Huntington's Board of Trustees: (L-R) Wendy Munger, J. Mario Molina, M.D., Gregory A. Pieschala (Chair), Andrew F. Barth, Mei-Lee Ney, Simon K.C. Li, Christine W. Bender

President Karen Lawrence (center left) with The Huntington's Board of Trustees: (L-R) Wendy Munger, J. Mario Molina, M.D., Gregory A. Pieschala (Chair), Andrew F. Barth, Mei-Lee Ney, Simon K.C. Li, Christine W. Bender.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about the importance of libraries and archives.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about the importance of libraries and archives.

The Huntington's 2020 Rose Parade® Float on the theme of "Cultivating Curiosity," winner of the Golden State Award

The Huntington's 2020 Rose Parade® Float on the theme of "Cultivating Curiosity," winner of the Golden State Award.

President Karen Lawrence and Dr. Peter Lawrence with Chinese Cultural Consul Wang and Consul Gu and performers at The Huntington's 2019 Chinese New Year Festival

President Karen Lawrence and Dr. Peter Lawrence with Chinese Cultural Consul Wang and Consul Gu and performers at The Huntington's 2019 Chinese New Year Festival.

	Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Huntington Governor Robert C. Davidson Jr. with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about why museums and collecting institutions matter.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Huntington Governor Robert C. Davidson Jr. with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about why museums and collecting institutions matter.

Architect Billie Tsien with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about architecture and community

​​​​​Architect Billie Tsien with President Karen Lawrence in conversation about architecture and community.