MEMORIAL PLAQUE BY MICHELE OKA DONER HONORS FOUNDING WOLFSONIAN LIBRARIAN, JAMES FINDLAY
Just last week the Wolfsonian-FIU Library hosted a gathering for the unveiling of a memorial plaque designed by renowned artist and Miami Beach native, Michele Oka Doner. Michele, whose body of work reflects her appreciation of the natural world, is well-known to Miami residents and visitors who can walk nearly a mile long expanse of terrazzo at the Miami Airport decorated by the artist with bronze and mother of pearl inlaid.
The luminous bronze plaque created by Michele for the library was designed using the lost wax process and commemorates the passing away in 2010 of her long-time friend, and the Wolfsonian’s first professional librarian, James Findlay.
Jim started with the Wolfsonian Foundation back in 1989 and played a critical role in transforming Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s private collection of books into a public museum rare book and special collections library accessible to the global community of scholars. Working in tandem with Mr. Wolfson, Jim helped build the collection, filling in gaps and broadening its areas of strength. Jim was particularly interested in WPA materials and his influence helped make the Wolfsonian’s collection of New Deal books and ephemera one of the finest in the nation.
After leaving the Wolfsonian in 1995, Jim went on serve as the founding director of the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts (later renamed the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book) housed in the main branch of the Broward County Library in downtown Fort Lauderdale. During his tenure there, Jim organized numerous and beautifully curated exhibitions with materials drawn from the Bienes collection as well as from collections held by local public institutions and private collectors. He and his staff produced approximately thirty printed catalogs publications to accompany those exhibitions.
The memorial event held in the Wolfsonian library was attended by Wolfsonian founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., Michele Oka Doner, Jim’s partner of twenty-five years, Rafael Rodriguez, his sibling Joanne from Michigan, life-long friend Janice Jorgensen, Lea Nickless, a couple of dozen other friends from Miami Beach. Many of the Wolfsonian’s veteran staff members who worked with Jim “way back when” also attended, including exhibition designer Richard Miltner who did the unveiling.