FIU LITERATURE AND ART HISTORY STUDENTS, EUROPEAN DIPLOMATS, WOLFSONIAN & SHSA BOARD MEMBERS, AND A FAREWELL TO A WOLFSONIAN FELLOW ALL IN TWO DAYS!

As we finish out yet another very busy work week filled with university student orientations and research appointments, the Wolfsonian library staff has had a moment to reflect on the slew of VIP guests, faculty, and students descending on the library last weekend.

This past Friday, the General Consul of France in Miami Gaël de Maisonneuve led a group of European consul and deputy consul generals on a tour of the Wolfsonian, stopping off in the library to look at some rare books and ephemera.

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Naturally, in advance of their visit we pulled a few items from each of the diplomat’s home countries. To represent our French holdings, I pulled a number of colorful pochoir (stencilwork) portfolio plates as well as a number of Art Deco bindings and illustrated books by Chas Laborde (1886-1941), and advertising designs for the French lottery illustrated by Joseph Hémard (1880-1961).

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Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament had been pulled for an earlier group visit and was still out and available for viewing by the representative of the United Kingdom. We also added other items, including a book of heraldry with typeface designed by Eric Gill and a souvenir program from the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

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 GIFT OF LESLIE STERNLIEB

The Wolfsonian is well-known for our holdings of Italian language materials, and we pulled some of the more famous Futurist masterpieces from the back stacks, as well as some less famous but equally interesting works.

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I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to pull for the Deputy Consul General of Spain as the vast majority of Spanish materials in our collection date back to the unhappy period of the civil war (1936-1939) that pit the leftist Republican government against the Fascist forces of Francisco Franco.

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Happily, I was also able to find and lay out some materials from brighter moments in Spain’s history, as when she organized international expositions and brought the world in to visit Barcelona in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR LONG-TERM LOAN

The Wolfsonian library possesses hundreds of calendar leaves from the Netherlands; some promoting socialism, the monarchy, and colonialism, while the vast majority simply show off the Nieuwe Kunst (or Dutch Art Nouveau) aesthetic drawing on nature for its inspiration.

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 But we have such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Nieuwe Kunst (or Dutch Art Nouveau) book bindings, that it was easier to bring the consuls into the back stacks than to try to bring the books to them!

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For the German consul I had pulled an oversized tome titled: Deutsche Gedenkhalle (or, German Memorial Hall) dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm II and published just one year before the outbreak of the First World War.

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Later on that afternoon I was asked to present a “provocative” library object to the Wolfsonian Board convening downstairs. I decided to use this same item glorifying the Kaiser juxtaposed to several more ephemeral items, including a rare puzzle on long-term loan to us from museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

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In sharp contrast to these positive images promoted in Germany, the library also holds postcards, children’s books, and sheet music covers published by the Allied nations of the First World War depicting him as a “rabid dog,” Don Quixote, and cowardly war criminal.

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

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Friday also marked the end of Laura Sivert’s residential/research fellowship at the Wolfsonian. She delivered a talk to the staff describing what she had found at the museum in her quest for images (both photographic and figurative) of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) projects.

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The library holds a wide range of items (rare books, periodicals, postcards, and other ephemera) documenting President Franklin Roosevelt’s program designed to “tame” the Tennessee River, to generate electricity in rural areas, and to put many thousands of unemployed men back to work in the construction of more than a dozen public-initiative hydroelectric dam projects. The Wolfsonian’s unrivaled collection of materials documenting (and propagandizing) public work projects in the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany in the same period also afforded this scholar the opportunity to consider the TVA in comparative perspective.

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I often teach courses on the Great Depression and New Deal America, so it was particularly rewarding for me to be able to share ideas with our visiting scholar. In fact, one of the by-products of the graduate course I taught last semester was a library display curated by two graduate students which included a book that pictured a couple of men working on a TVA dam.

The busy schedule did not let up on Saturday. In the early morning two groups of a total of forty FIU students taking Professor Carmela McIntire’s course on the literature of the Great Depression were conducted on tours through the museum galleries and the library.

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Thanks in part to a generous donation some years ago by Christopher DeNoon, we have an excellent collection of books about the Dust Bowl, proletarian protest novels, political propaganda, Federal Writers’ Project books, and other works from the era.

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CHRISTOPHER DENOON COLLECTION
FOR THE STUDY OF NEW DEAL CULTURE

Almost as soon as I ushered out the one class and cleared the tables, Professor Heller-Greenman escorted in a some of the art history students who had been unable to come last week into the library to look at some examples of American art in our collection.

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Immediately in their wake came a delegation of board members of the Steamship Historical Society of America, responsible for the publication of Powerships (formerly titled Steamboat Bill).

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Dr. Laurence Miller (retired FIU Director of Libraries) was on hand to provide the board with a tour of the extensive collection of ocean liner promotional materials from the 1950s through the 2000s he had accumulated over the course of his life and had donated to the museum a few years ago.

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LAURENCE MILLER COLLECTION

The visitors also had the opportunity to see some of the brochures, deck plans, and other materials from the Moore-McCormack Lines, part of a recent donation made by Thomas C. Ragan recently on display in the library foyer.

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There was also lots to see from the interwar period materials originally collected and donated to the Wolfsonian by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

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~ by "The Chief" on February 2, 2013.

One Response to “FIU LITERATURE AND ART HISTORY STUDENTS, EUROPEAN DIPLOMATS, WOLFSONIAN & SHSA BOARD MEMBERS, AND A FAREWELL TO A WOLFSONIAN FELLOW ALL IN TWO DAYS!”

  1. All this in two days? The year started very well!

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