As noted in an earlier post, Miami Beach resident and former chief librarian at The Wolfsonian Foundation, James Findlay passed away earlier this month. Jim was born in the rural town of Reese, Michigan in 1943, and it was his wish that his ashes be distributed in the woods behind the farm in which he grew up. In his capacity as the first library director at The Wolfsonian, Jim played a large and influential role in shaping the library collection during the institution’s foundation. An avid New Deal enthusiast, Jim helped to guide museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. in the selection and acquisition of numerous works documenting various WPA projects.


I know that Jim would be exceedingly proud to know that the New Deal collection he helped initiate here at the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the other that he subsequently built as director of The Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale have put South Florida on the map as one of the most important repositories of these materials outside of Washington, D.C. And I can only imagine that Jim would have been pleased to know that shortly before his death, The Wolfsonian greatly augmented that incredible collection he helped to build. In mid-September, Christopher DeNoon, a collector based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, donated hundreds of rare books and other New Deal-themed items to the Wolfsonian library, including a number of elementary science readers compiled by the WPA Pennsylvania Writers’ Project with dust jackets and illustrations designed by workers of the Pennsylvania Art Project. 


During his tenure as chief librarian at The Wolfsonian, Jim served as a mentor for myself and the other librarians working here, and also provoked me to study in more depth New Deal art and culture. For several years now, I have been teaching a course at Florida International University on the Great Depression and New Deal Era in Film and History and, I hope, inspiring a new generation of students to learn more about the era. Having spotted a couple of rare books and pamphlets documenting some of the Roosevelt Administration’s initiatives in rural America, I thought that I would buy and donate them to the collection as a tribute to Jim and his enduring mission to preserve and make accessible the cultural heritage of New Deal America.



~ by "The Chief" on October 27, 2010.

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