Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn works exclusively with the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection in The Wolfsonian-FIU library, and she recently put together an exhibition celebrating the hundred year anniversary of the completion of the Panama Canal. Referencing the Herculean accomplishment of the excavation and construction of the canal (which is today in the late stages of a major expansion), her exhibit is titled:Wonders Never Cease.


All of us here at The Wolfsonian-FIU library are deeply grateful for the continued generosity and support of Jean and Frederic Sharf. Their commitment to this institution has allowed us to share such wonderful materials as Ms. Pienn has organized in her exhibit with our university faculty, students, and the general public. What follows is her report on the installation:



The Panama Canal, a modern wonder of the world, came to be after decades of planning, building, digging, failing, dying, and, finally, triumph. Wonders Never Cease: The 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal, a Wolfsonian-FIU library exhibit, took months of research, cataloging, scanning, curating, and installing. Perhaps a direct comparison between the creation of a museum library exhibit and the engineering of the mighty maritime gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is a slight stretch of the imagination. The building of the Panama Canal involved intelligence, brute force, danger and daring. The design and installation of Wonders Never Cease called for creativity, collaboration, historical insight, and visual acuity.


Once I culled the items for display with help from my librarian colleagues, the curatorial department reviewed my selections. Installation work began in earnest once the ideal beauty, balance, and narratives of the item groupings were achieved.

pancanexhib2The library exhibition space on the third floor of the Wolfsonian-FIU contains two large flat cases, a long upright wall display, and a tall traditional object transparent cube display box. For the upright wall display, the challenge is to safely arrange documents, books, and other ephemera so that they are mounted securely without compromising the preservation of the materials.

pancanexhib5Then, each piece will be arranged in appropriate order with the accompanying narrative labels. Measurements are carefully taken before each object is set in its place in the display alcove.

pancanexhib3Sometimes custom mounts need to be designed in order to hold books open to a preferred page, or to raise closed books to an inclined position.

pancanexhib4Once the standing flat cases are filled with their designated material groupings and labels, the exhibit is almost ready for the public to view and enjoy. In order for patrons to have the opportunity to see what’s inside the displayed books and brochures, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation to run on a loop in perpetuity. Each image includes a descriptive caption and citation. Voilà! An exhibit is born.

During this process, a curator from the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach contacted me. She expressed interest in borrowing the Wolfsonian-FIU library materials from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf collection for an upcoming exhibit she was planning on the Panama Canal at her museum for later in the year.

henry_morrison_flagler_museum_facadePhoto courtesy of the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum website at http://www.flaglermuseum.us

Before heading to South Beach to visit us, the Curator and Assistant Curator of the Flagler Museum checked the Wolfsonian-FIU library catalog online. New items from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, along with many other wonderful acquisitions to the library, are being cataloged and scanned every day so that anyone with computer access can search for items and view digitized illustrations, photographs, and decorative publisher’s bindings. The curators made their selections in advance and informed me of which books, objects and photograph albums they wished to see in person. Once they arrived, they spent time in the library reading room examining their selections, as an initial research phase for their October exhibit.



Wonders Never Cease: The 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal will be on view at the Wolfsonian-FIU Library through August 2014. I’m also excited to share that our accompanying online exhibit is in production. It will include a new interactive component that will allow the viewer to have virtual 360-degree navigational capabilities around the exhibit vestibule. Viewers will also be able to click on individual books within the cases and see full images, read the exhibit story labels, and watch an introductory video. Stay tuned!

~ by "The Chief" on May 23, 2014.

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