|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, July 19, 2004
Los Angeles Times 7-19-04
Institute Will Help Scholars Mine Golden State's History
A new institute aimed at encouraging scholars and working professionals to study the history of and influences on California and the West will be launched today by the Huntington Library and USC.
"In the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the American West," said Bill Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and a professor of history at USC. "There is the notion that California and the West are bellwethers for the rest of the nation, if not the globe."
Institute officials plan to hold classes and seminars at USC and the Huntington Library, as well as promote better use of the library's extensive archives that include hand-drawn maps of Mission holdings, Army records and photographs recording the growth of Southern California.
The institute hopes to expand perceptions of Californians beyond such pop-culture standards as "Gidget" or "Beverly Hills 90210," said Robert C. Ritchie, the library's director of research.
" 'Baywatch,' for a while, was the No. 1 television show in the world. That was California," he said. "Well, a lot goes on in San Bernardino too."
The institute's backers say academics have tended to treat California with a touch of snobbery — and lack of attention — because the state is relatively young. But the nation's most populous state has grown to play a hefty role in the international economy, spurred civics lessons across the country with last year's gubernatorial recall election, and illustrates the frictions and benefits of so many cultures living together, they said.
"Every field evolves," said Ritchie. California is now "a powerful state in its own right."
The first sponsored symposium will be a panel discussion on "What Does California Mean?" It will take place in April at the Organization of American Historians meeting in San Francisco.
Steven Koblik, the Huntington Library's president, said the new institute hoped to become the premier authority on California and the West — outpacing institutions such as the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the Beinecke Library at Yale, which offer considerable research material on the region.
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