Wednesday, 12 November 2014

From the Archives: A Research Fellowship at the Huntington Library

Henry Knight Lozano

Being a scholar of the US based in the UK presents certain obvious geographical challenges – there is no archive down the road to help kick-start a new project – and thus any research trip stateside needs to be considered carefully to get the most value for the time and money being spent. 

With this in mind, in August, I spent a month as a Research Fellow at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, and found it to be both a welcoming and distinctive place to do research. Founded in 1919 by railroad and real estate magnate Henry E. Huntington, the Huntington is a stand-alone research and educational institution that does not belong to any university (although the recent USC-Huntington Institute on California and the West represents an exciting new collaboration). The library offers a wide range of funded fellowships (over 150 annually) typically from one to six months; moreover, it sits in stunning botanical gardens dotted with fine art galleries that, if you’re not careful, can stretch a quick coffee break into a meandering wander through the grounds. 

The Huntington Gardens
This combination of southern California sun, semi-tropical gardens and tourists adrift therein made the Huntington feel a particularly apt location for my new project exploring cultural connections that developed between California and Hawaii in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The library’s archives, though, are lure enough. The Huntington holds an immense amount of Anglo-American materials: the library’s western and Californian sources were my focus – from private letter collections to visual ephemera – but literary scholars and historians of Britain and Europe from the medieval to the early modern are also drawn to its rich manuscript and rare book collections. This creates a lively and collegiate atmosphere among researchers with new fellows constantly arriving and informal talks organised to share projects and insights, often across disciplines and levels of study: postgraduate students, for example, are a notably significant presence among the fellowship community, reflecting the inclusive approach of the library and its funding schemes. In all, I found the Huntington an extremely useful research archive and institution and would recommend it to anyone working in a relevant field – the sun and the grounds are just a bonus!

Henry Knight Lozano is a Lecturer in History and American Studies at Northumbria University.  He is the author of the award-winning Tropic of Hopes: California, Florida, and the Selling of American Paradise, 1869-1929 (University Press of Florida, 2013).

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