401. Hunnewell Visitor Center

Hunnewell Visitor Center

The Hunnewell Building is open to visitors for restroom or water fountain use daily (weekdays 9am-5pm and weekends 10am-5pm).

The Visitor Center (open daily 10am-5pm, closed Wednesdays) features activities for children and families, a large diorama of the Arboretum, and a rotating exhibition on Arboretum history. Across from the Visitor Center, the lecture hall displays exhibitions of art inspired by the Arboretum’s landscape and mission.

Upstairs is the Arboretum Horticultural Library (open weekdays 10am-4pm, upon request). The library holds over 25,000 volumes and 65,000 photographs relating to Arboretum and botanical history.

The Hunnewell building was built in 1892 with help from Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, a prominent horticulturist and longtime friend of the Arboretum. Today, along with the visitor areas, the building houses the Arboretum’s public programs, curation, horticulture, and institutional advancement departments.

Kate Stonefoot is the Arboretum's Manager of Visitor Engagement. Hear her talk about the team of staff and volunteers who run events, lead tours, and greet visitors.

Hello, my name is Kate Stonefoot and I am the Manager of Visitor Engagement at the Arnold Arboretum.

I would say that my role at the Arnold Arboretum is to figure out ways to welcome all of our visitors. Some of that is thinking about things like safety, their overall comfort, wayfinding, how they move throughout the Arboretum… and then once those needs are met, then I can focus on other things and ways to enrich their experience. That could be something like special events, educational programming, it could be interpretive signs that are in the landscape, or interpretive displays in the Visitor Center. It could also be something more informal like conversations with Ambassadors in the landscape or one of our many volunteers.

So, there are a lot of key players on the Visitor Engagement team. We have the Coordinator of Visitor Engagement and Exhibitions, who works really hard to develop really interesting, engaging, beautiful displays brought in by local artists (and sometimes not local artists), so there are things in the Lecture Hall as well as the Visitor Center. And she has also been working tirelessly to bring some of her dreams to life by bringing in theater this past year. So, I think she thinks a lot about ways to entice people that might not be that interested in the plants, the collection here at the Arboretum, but her hope—and our hope, in Visitor Engagement—is that once they have a connection, then they will become interested in the plant collection here at the Arboretum.

We also have an amazing team that works in the Visitor Center. They are so kind and welcoming. They really make the visitor feel special, as if they’ve known them for a long period of time. Which I think is amazing, because most of the people that they meet, this is just their first chance, their first visit, their first talk, and they find out things about these visitors that you just can’t even believe. They take the time to do things like get them water if it’s a hot day, they get them hot chocolate when it’s cold, they help them call if they had car trouble. But more importantly, they are constantly working to learn more about the Arboretum, so that they can then pass on all of that information and all those great stories to our visitors. They also work hard to develop personalized itineraries that then highlight things that are of seasonal interest at that time of year.

We also have the Arboretum Ambassadors, and they are stationed out in the landscape 365 days a year. They are just a really comforting presence for people, and I think their addition has really helped people feel more comfortable and safe in the Arboretum. They answer all sorts of questions that visitors might have and, more importantly, they just really expand and extend the reach of the Visitor Engagement department.

Visitor Engagement also coordinates over 70 volunteers and those volunteers are docents, interpreters... We have special volunteers that are stationed in the Bonsai and Penjing Pavilion.

We also have a series of citizen science-based initiatives. So, we have the Tree Spotters, as well as the Arnold Arboretum NestWatch, which is a new initiative being led by Brendan Keegan, and a really neat and interesting new opportunity.

Tracking the number of people that the Visitor Engagement department interacts with over the course of a year is really challenging. We can’t really track the number of people that are coming through the gates, at this point, because there are so many gates and there are also so many other points of entry that aren’t at a gate, so we try not to say how many come through in that method. We do, however, count the number of people that come into the Visitor Center, and I believe last year, it was close to 70,000 people. And then we try to keep very good records of how many people we’re interacting with through our programming, and I think last year, we had close to 15 to 17,000 people.

Tap here to read a transcript.