After months of scheduling research visits, picking topics, selecting items, and writing interpretive and descriptive labels, seven Florida International University students studying the Great Depression and New Deal Era installed their exhibit in the Green Library on the Modesto Maidique campus. Unwrapping the carefully-selected materials and installing them and their labels in the cases on the second floor of the library took several hours. The last items were placed in the cases just as their fellow students arrived for the guided tours and a question and answer session.

One of the students, Mariana Clavijo, selected materials from two of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s earliest New Deal programs: the NRA and AAA. (It goes without saying that Ms. Clavijo was not interested in either the National Rifle Association or the American Automobile Association). Rather, she used her display to investigate how the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration promoted their plans, and to determine if the reforms actually succeeded in providing real relief to industrial and farm workers hit hard by the Great Depression.

Several of the student curators decided to focus on the Federal Arts Project (FAP, or Federal One). Jessica Tejeiro, for example, chose to display exhibition catalogs and programs for works of art exhibited in federally-funded community art centers and galleries. She also tapped into an archive of official documents and correspondence of Robert Delson, head of the Florida Arts Project in Jacksonville, and illustrator of the Florida Guide.

Speaking of the American Guide Series, Michelle Zavala and Christie Vina worked as a team to hone in on the Federal Writers’ Project, or FWP. Together they filled two cases with some of the books written to encourage domestic tourism by publishing histories and travel guides to the 48 existing states of the Union.

Kevin Pineiro also selected items from the Wolfsonian-FIU library collection for the Federal Arts Project, choosing items that more generally documented New Deal Art, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Writers’ Project.

Two more student curators, Maria Aliano and Miriam Kashem, decided to focus in on those New Deal programs aimed at the young. Ms. Aliano looked at the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) choosing items from the Wolfsonian library and borrowing a few rare pamphlets, photographs, annuals, and even a woodblock and a print made by an aspiring CCC artist, Friedolin Edward Kessler (American, 1919–1995). Although Ms. Kashem also picked objects about Roosevelt’s so-called “Tree Army,” she also selected items from WPA (Work Projects Administration) and NYA (National Youth Administration) programs. The WPA funded projects aimed at nursing malnourished children back to health while the NYA provided unemployed youths with educational opportunities and vocational training to turn potential delinquents into upstanding and productive citizens.

A Powerpoint presentation will also be running on the large flat screen monitor in the exhibit area featuring the displays put together by FIU students who opted to do this curatorial project Fall semester 2008. Although this year’s installation came off without a hitch, there was some unexpected excitement during the student-guided tours that followed. Just as Ms. Kashem was pointing out a board game and talking about the forest fire prevention and suppression activities of the CCC, the Green Library’s fire alarms went off! Fortunately, after a fifteen-minute “recess,” the class reassembled and the tour resumed.

We hope to be able to organize a public reception where the the student curators will again have the opportunity to give guided tours and speak about their curatorial experience with Wolfsonian museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. in attendance. This event is likely to take place sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, Thursday December 10th. Details to follow!

~ by "The Chief" on November 26, 2009.


  1. Great pictures! I look professional.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: