A RECEPTION IN THE WOLFSONIAN CAFÉ AND THEN “BACK TO WORK” IN THE LIBRARY
Last evening the Wolfsonian hosted a reception to celebrate the installation of an exhibition in the library floor foyer put together by two Miami-Dade schoolteachers and Florida International University History Masters candidates, Rosita Sosa and Iris Sanchez-Ruiz.
Both students were enrolled in my Great Depression, New Deal, and “Good War” seminar last semester and logged in a lot of extra hours coming to the museum on Saturdays to do the research to prepare for the exhibition.
As guest curator Esther Shalev-Gerz was at this same time installing her own show, Describing Labor on the sixth floor gallery, I was thrilled to learn that Rosita and Iris were also interested in labor issues and that our library exhibit would have some synergy with the other exhibitions on display. The students worked all semester long reviewing library and museum objects, making an initial selection, preparing descriptive and interpretative text, and revising and culling the list of objects to be shown in their exhibit, Back to Work: FDR and Labor’s New Deal.
Last night’s guests braved the heavy downpours and persevered through worse-than-usual traffic to the Beach from throngs of boat show visitors heading to the Miami Beach Convention Center. The two exhibition organizers arrived with their families in tow, and Professors Victor Uribe and Emma Sordo and a number of FIU History graduate students also came to mingle with Museum Director Cathy Leff, Deputy Director for Collections Sharon Misdea, Curator Silvia Barisione, Associate Librarians Rochelle Pienn and Nicolae Harsanyi, Assistant Librarian Michel Potop over sangria and tapas served in the museum café.
Afterwards, the group took the elevator to the third floor to see the installation and to hear Iris and Rosita describe their experiences in curating the show.
Both of them touched on the struggles they had after settling on a topic in choosing museum artifacts that would best illustrate those theme. Then came the challenge of accommodating these selections in three relatively limited and limiting installation cases. After working with digital storyboards for so long, they were gratified to see the layout of the actual artifacts in the wall and flat cases.
The students had organized their labor show around three themes: the promise of the New Deal, the social and economic realities of the Depression, and the strikes by labor for a better deal.
THE CHRISTOPHER DENOON COLLECTION FOR THE STUDY OF NEW DEAL CULTURE
While many of the museum paintings and art objects they would have liked to have included were either unavailable or too big for the cases, they had been able to supplement their casework with images of the artifacts presented in a Powerpoint slide show.
Of course, putting together an exhibition is by nature a collective endeavor and enterprise. In addition to thanking Iris and Rosita for all their hard work, I would also like to extend a personal note of thanks to the museum’s curators for their editorial oversight, art handlers James Taylor and Steve Forero-Paz for their professional installation of the materials on display.
This is the sixth library exhibition collaboration involving Florida International University students, and thanks also to Digital Library Specialist David Almeida, all of these displays exist online as virtual exhibitions that can be toured long after the shows come down.