A WHIRLWIND OF VISITORS AND DISPLAYS OF EUROPEAN LIBRARY MATERIALS
It has been so busy in the library this week that I have barely had time enough to review and answer all my emails, never mind sit down long enough to describe some of the visits and happenings in the library since last Friday’s visit by Brownsville middle school students studying the early Civil Rights Movement in America. Since the visits and openings have come in such quick succession, rather than describing any one in detail, I thought I’d use today’s blog post to simply highlight a small sampling of some of the European materials recently pulled for the gallery and informal displays. The day after the Brownville student visit, Florida International University Professor Carmela McIntire came to the library with 24 students in her English literature class for a presentation of materials dealing with the Great Depression decade. As the second half of the class will be coming in this coming Saturday, I will defer describing the materials laid out for that class until after that visit. As soon as Professor McIntire’s students were ushered out of the library, we had to clear away and lay out materials for a visit by more than two dozen FIU students enrolled in various French modern language courses.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA AND CLARA PALACIO-DE LUCA
The materials pulled for the latter group included such items as French advertisements; catalogs, postcards, and rare portfolios from the various colonial and international expositions held in Marseilles and Paris; colorful pochoir plates showing off Art Deco interiors; and even some embarrassing children’s propaganda books glorifying Maréchal Pétain and the French Fascists who collaborated with the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War.
Some of the striking advertisements published by the Parisian wine distributors, Établissements Nicholas, and others designed by Paul Iribe, have since that visit been placed in the wall case of the library foyer as part of an exhibit put together by Associate Librarian Nicolae Harsanyi. Entitled Wine, Bubbly, and Their Merchants: Advertisements and Publications From the Wolfsonian Collection, the exhibit opened to the public this afternoon.
This last Tuesday, Professor Tori Arpad-Cotta made her annual “pilgrimage” to the Wolfsonian-FIU library with seventeen of her art installation students. The students had the chance to see a display of rare materials ranging from exhibition catalogs with color chromolithographic plates and illustrations to black & white stereograph cards. The works pulled highlighted exhibition design techniques and represented world’s fairs, colonial, and international exhibitions in England and the European continent.
On Wednesday evening, Dr. Harsanyi and I drove out to the Modesto Maidique Campus at Florida International University for a gallery opening in the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum of an exhibit put together by FIU School of Architecture Professor David Rifkind. A recipient of our Mellon grant, Professor Rifkind had been conducting research in our museum and rare books library on the subject of Italy’s colonial possessions in Africa. His exhibition, Metropole/Colony: Africa and Italy used selected items from the Wolfsonian collections to explore the important role African colonization played in shaping Italian national identity during the Fascist era (1922-1943).
GIFTS OF STEVE HELLER
Thursday, our main reading room tables were again covered with a variety of materials pulled for a group of scholars exploring the strengths of our Dutch materials for consideration in a future exhibition. After looking at the smaller decorative arts objects and larger Works on Paper items elsewhere in the collection, they came up to the library to see the finest collection of Dutch Nieuwe Kunst (or Art Nouveau) book bindings and printed ephemera held outside of The Netherlands.
Even before stepping into the back stacks to see the thousands of beautiful Art Nouveau book bindings, the Dutch scholars (accompanied by our curators, registrar, exhibition designer, and museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.) were treated to a sampling of printed ephemera. The materials set out included rare drawings, prints, and annotated proofs made by some of the most renowned Dutch graphic designers and artists produced for the publishing houses; calendar leaves with floral patterns, Socialistic images celebrating the workers, and Orientalist themes from the colonies; leaflets advertising the various industrial fairs held in Utrecht, promotional materials from several important Dutch shipping and cruise line companies, decorative packaging and paper bags, catalogs and postcards produced for Dutch colonial and international expositions.
Thanks to a grant by the National Endowment of the Arts some years ago, much of the Wolfsonian’s Art Nouveau book bindings, printed ephemera, and museum objects from the Netherlands can now be seen on the web in high resolution via PALMM (Publication of Archival, Library, and Museum Materials).