Just last week I learned that James Findlay, an exceptional art librarian, mentor, and WPA Federal Writers’ Project aficionado had passed away at the age of 67. Jim was not one to bring his private life into the public sphere, and so I thought that in keeping with that spirit I would focus instead on his many professional accomplishments.

Since 1995, Jim had been serving as director of the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book, a rare books and special collections library housed in the main branch of the Broward County Library. During his tenure there, Jim organized numerous and beautifully curated exhibitions drawn from the Bienes Museum’s own collections (which he largely built), and those of local public institutions and private collectors. He and his staff also produced approximately thirty printed publications to accompany those displays, many of them winning the prestigious Art Libraries Society of North America’s art publishing award. He also put together one of the country’s finest collections of New Deal books and WPA Museum Extension Project items.


My own association with Jim, however, dates back to his earlier work as the first chief librarian at The Wolfsonian Foundation between 1989 and 1995. During this time, Jim played an instrumental role in helping to organize and grow the library, even as the private collection was being transformed into a public institution. Before that, Jim had served in library directorial positions at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC and the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence in the 1980s, and had even served a stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer Librarian in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. Jim had taken both his BA in Art History and MS in Library Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and had pursued another Master’s degree in Latin American Studies at UCLA, Los Angeles.

These bare-bones listings are more the matter of resume material than eulogy, but Jim was not one to encourage or tolerate a lot of sentimental gush. I will remember Jim most as fine boss and mentor, a passionate tennis player, someone one could always spot bicycling around Miami Beach, and as an avid collector and exhibitor of New Deal books and ephemera. It is in remembrance of Jim’s interests and collecting mission, I’ve included in this blog some images from The Wolfsonian library’s holdings that touch upon his greatest loves: books, librarianship, and the New Deal.

~ by "The Chief" on October 11, 2010.

4 Responses to “JAMES FINDLAY (1943-2010), IN MEMORIAM”

  1. Thank you very much Frank. I love that piture of Jim surrounded by the books. That’s the way he want to feel–to sleep “around books”. He’ll be very proud.
    Big Hug,
    Rafael Rodrguez his life partner

  2. Thank you for this. A fitting tribute to the man. I suspect he would be flattered (though he would probably act as if he wasn’t!). Jim will certainly be missed, but I take comfort in knowing that his work and passions will live on, and continue to flourish, for others to learn from and enjoy. OK, best stop gushing!

  3. Yes, a fitting tribute. I met him through the ARLIS-SE Chapter Conferences and will miss seeing him there. He was a very learned scholar and always ready to advise when I needed a question answered. At our last Fall Conference we had a long discussion on cameras and photography. I wonder if he ever purchased a new Nikon. He has left a void that cannot be filled.

  4. I am devastated to hear that Jim passed. I worked at the Broward Main Library for many years and appreciated Jims wit and humor. He was one of a kind and exceptional at everything that he did.
    I loved him.

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