Cost-Pricier than many of my recommends (see admission prices here). I suggest a yearly membership of $120 which gets your spouse and children in for free for one year. One visit isn't enough to truly explore this magnificent property and it is always expanding.
The Huntington consists of a museum, a research library and extensive botanical gardens and is located adjacent to Pasadena. I found it impossible to describe it in one blog post. The first of what will eventually be three articles on this fascinating location can be found in the April 2016 archives.
Henry Huntington, a railroad magnate, and his wife Arabella, were avid collectors of rare books as well as art and plants from around the world. Arriving at The Huntington for a visit, my first stop is usually to see the books on display. The research library, which has acquired a new magnificent building in the last decade, is not open to the public. A lucky few scholars, called readers, must get special permission to study the great array of rare and unusual books. For information on the Munger Research Facility check here or check out the online catalog. For the rest of us a very small portion of the library's rare books can be seen in the permanent exhibition hall.
On display are books, letters, handwritten manuscripts, some of the rarest, most valuable, most profound written words in the world. The Main Hall's 'Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times' exhibition holds treasures such as a beautifully calligraphed manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and a Book of Hours. The first book ever to be printed, The Guttenberg Bible, is on display, also find a rare elephant folio of Audubon's The Birds of America. In recent years interactive media has been added and listening to excerpts from some of the materials is a treat. Touch screen media adds to the experience, displaying, for example, the progression of printed books across the globe, or additional pages of a book. All books are protected behind glass and many of the original letters and hand written pieces have been replaced by facsimiles to protect the valuable originals. This caused some difficulty in acquiring decent photos-please forgive the occasional reflection. A small sacrifice to pay for the preservation of something so important.
The Dibner Hall of the History of Science, a newer part of the library exhibition, is fascinating as well as more interesting for children. Not only are valuable books and manuscripts of early scientists on display but there are also more interactive activities and large copies of interesting pages displayed on the walls. Walking into the Astronomy room produces oohs and aahs from kids and adults alike. Constellations look down on visitors and a replica of Galileo's telescope stands off to the side waiting to be peeked through. Ptolemy, Newton, Copernicus are just a few of the author/scientists waiting to be discovered in this section.
Following Astronomy is Natural History. The walls are covered with replicas of the drawings of plants and animals from books included in the exhibition. Replicas of microscopes used in the
seventeenth century are on display and can be looked through. Many of the naturalists books on display are equally works of art as they are works of science.
The same is true of the medical books. The detailed drawings of the pioneers of medicine are both beautiful and gruesome. Pop-up books have apparently been around for centuries and were a tool used to study medicine rather than an amusement for children. Check out the pages with moving parts and overlays. Look at stunning drawings of sixteenth century medical texts and use a touchscreen to magnify portions of the pages and admire the detail.
Light and Electricity contains works by Isaac Newton, Tesla, Descartes. Here can be found reproductions of experiments of light and a descriptive account of Ben Franklin's kite experiment.
Younger kids have a harder time getting through the library, as there is little for them to do and nothing is set at a height appropriate for little ones. Older kids interested in history, science or art will find much of interest in the exhibitions. When my kids were little I would reward them with hours spent in the gardens after the library. Nowadays there is the enchanting Children's Garden to sweeten the deal. Alternatively, wearing the kids out first by hiking through the gardens and checking out the library on the way back with a sleeping toddler in a stroller might be the way to go.
The Huntington is closed on Tuesdays and they have a free day on the first Thursday of the month. A reservation must be made online for the free day.