April 9, 2007 — Mary Aiken Littauer was arguably the world’s leading authority on horses of ancient times. After her death at the age of 93 in 2005, Littauer’s family selected the International Museum of the Horse–a Smithsonian Affiliate–at the Kentucky Horse Park to be the beneficiary of her incomparable collection of more than 1,200 books and approximately 25 boxes of research notes, photos and correspondence.
John Nicholson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park, noted, “Mary Littauer was a woman of great intellect, fluent in ancient languages, interested in classical archaeology, prolific writer and passionate about horses. Consequently, she was uniquely positioned to become the ‘go-to’ person for equine scholars, archaeologists and journalists. The Kentucky Horse Park is highly honored to be the recipient of her unparalleled collection of books and other research material.”
Museum director, Bill Cooke, stated, “This is one of the most significant gifts we have received in our 30-year history. Mary Littauer was a giant in her field, and was internationally respected as the grande dame of equestrian history. Serious scholars from around the world used to converge on Mary Littauer’s estate on Long Island to utilize her marvelous library and to discuss their research. Now these same scholars will be coming to Lexington.”
He continued, “While libraries and archives may not garner the same public excitement as international exhibitions, I feel that this generous donation from the Littauer family is a real watershed event in our museum’s brief history. Instantly, it makes us a destination for equestrian scholars from around the world, and, beginning in 2010, will culminate a tri-annual series of ‘Mary A. Littauer Memorial Symposiums on Equestrian History.'”
According to her obituary in the New York Times, the Pittsburgh-born, Manhattan-raised Littauer had an early association with Kentucky, “As a young woman, she was a volunteer courier in the Frontier Nursing Service, which provided health care in rural Kentucky. For young society women, the chance to ride horses for many miles over roadless, mountainous terrain in a good cause was grand adventure. She was once caught in the middle of a shooting battle between feuding families.”
She also had verified much of the text for International Museum of the Horse prior to its opening in 1978.
An archivist has been hired by the museum to investigate and create an inventory of the material, and to prepare it for use by visiting scholars and the museum staff.
For more information on the Mary Littauer collection, call the museum at 859-259-4232. For more information on the International Museum of the Horse, visit www.kyhorsepark.com.