Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation
About the Institute
Based on the private collections of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, Hunt Institute was dedicated in 1961 as the Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt Botanical Library, an international center for bibliographical research and service in the interests of botany and horticulture, as well as a center for the study of all aspects of the history of the plant sciences. By 1971 the Hunt Botanical Library's activities had so diversified that the name was changed to Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Growth in collections and research projects led to the establishment of four programmatic departments: Archives, Art, Bibliography and the Library.
Mrs. Hunt's collecting interests brought together aspects of art, history, science and literature as they related to plants and gardens. Her private book collection was well known, and her scholarship led her also to collect related artworks, portraits and manuscripts significant in the history of botany. Although Hunt Institute's mission has grown and evolved since 1961, the nucleus collections and originating vision form the foundation on which the ongoing development of collections and programs is based. Today a wide variety of historical and retrospective materials, as well as their modern counterparts, is collected. The Institute's collections, holdings and staff expertise are of value not only for the study of botany and its history but also for investigations of the following topics:
- Art history
- Botanical art and illustration
- History of science
- Horticulture, botanic gardens and gardening
- Printers and publishing
- Rare books
- Scientific education
- Social and cultural commentary
- Travel and scientific expeditions and exploration
A comparison of the original and current collections is shown below:
2,961 titles Books and Serials
1,300 Prints, Drawings and Watercolors
400 Individual and Group Portraits
410 Autograph Letters and Manuscripts
0 Collected Papers
0 Detailed Bibliographic Records of Botanical Books and Periodicals
30,150 titles Books and Serials
29,270 Prints, Drawings and Watercolors
29,000+ Individual and Group Portraits
2,000+ Autograph Letters and Manuscripts
300+ Collected Papers
243,000+ Detailed Bibliographic Records of Botanical Books and Periodicals
Hunt Institute, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, is located in the Hunt Library building. Roy and Rachel Hunt donated the Hunt Library building to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). They intended the building to house the botanical library as well as the main library for "Carnegie Tech," with the fourth floor left vacant at the time to allow for expansion. The building, completed in June 1961, was designed by the Harrisburg architects Lawrie & Green, along with the Pittsburgh firm of Deeter & Ritchie. The prominence of aluminum in the building's exterior and interior reflects Mr. Hunt's connection with the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa).
While many visitors to the Institute come to consult the collections or view exhibitions in the gallery, a number of visitors also come to see what Rachel Hunt, a well-known daughter of Pittsburgh, has created and to enjoy this lasting impression of her interests. If the early Library collections were the result of one individual's taste and preference, the same can be said of the furnishings of the Reading Room, an elegantly appointed library space furnished in the grand style and now used primarily for presentations, such as lectures and book talks, made to visiting groups.
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