Holiday Gifts


As the winter holiday season of 2018 rapidly approaches, in addition to hosting visits by FIU classes and Art Basel visitors, the librarians of The Wolfsonian–FIU Library have been preparing gift letters to acknowledge the many gifts we have received throughout the year. This post will be the first of several to be published through the year’s end recognizing the many generous donations received that have helped us build on strengths and fill in gaps in our rapidly growing collection of rare books, periodicals, and ephemera.

Not long ago, Modern Languages Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia arrived with a group of FIU students and Francophiles at The Wolfsonian for a presentation of French-language materials in the library, and a brief tour of the galleries.


On this particular occasion, Professor Garcia asked us to lay out some rare materials dealing with the topic of France’s overseas possessions and colonies and Francophone countries and cultures.

Wolfsonian founder Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr. spends much of the year traveling the world on the hunt for materials to add to our holdings, but also has an apartment in Paris and regularly frequents the many fine antiquarian bookshops of France. He recently packed up and sent to us the contents of his apartment there, a gift that included many items on the subject of France’s colonies. In preparing for the student’s visit, I prioritized accessioning, cataloguing, and having these new materials digitized so that the students would have the opportunity to see them during their visit, but also so that our online visitors might also have the chance to see something new.

The French-language materials donated by Mr. Wolfson included items from the international and colonial expositions organized in France to show off new technologies and inventions, new artistic and architectural styles, and to introduce Parisians and fair visitors to the peoples of foreign lands and French colonial possession.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Colonial pavilions and midways like the famous “Streets of Cairo” were designed to entertain and well as educate fair-goers through interaction with exotic architecture and the inhabitants of “human zoos.”



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Another recent gift from Mr. Wolfson’s Paris apartment was a children’s book celebrating the martyrdom of “Le Père de Foucauld,” a French Catholic member of the Poor Clares missionary order who established a religious retreat among the Tuareg people in the Saharan region of southern Algeria.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Foucauld lived among the Berbers, learned their language, and was working on a manuscript dictionary and grammar rich with descriptions of their culture and traditions when he was kidnapped and killed by armed bandits connected with the Senussi Bedouin. The juvenile history of Foucault’s life and martyrdom was intended to inspire young French Catholics with missionary zeal and fervor for converting the peoples of North Africa.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Two more recent gifts from Mr. Wolfson focused on French expeditions from coastal Morocco and Algiers down and across the Sahara desert.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Unlike earlier explorations employing native guides and camel caravans, the French expeditions of the late 1920s and early 1930s described in these books had crossed the great desert in automobiles to demonstrate the superiority of European technology.






The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Finally, a portfolio also donated by Mr. Wolfson highlighted France’s metropole and colonies in a collection of photographic plates. This particular item was published just a year prior to the 1937 Paris Exposition, the last to prominently feature France’s overseas empire before the outbreak of the Second World War.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised gift

As the professor and her students were also interested in the impact of the colonial peoples on French culture, I also pulled some plates from Le Tumulte Noir, a portfolio of color pochoir prints by Paul Colin, recently donated to The Wolfsonian by Daniel Morris. The plates celebrate the influence of African “primitivism” in the dance culture and nightlife of 1930s Paris, paying particular tribute to the famous African-American performer, Josephine Baker. Capitalizing on the French fascination with African “naturalism” and “primitivism,” Baker created exotic and erotic personae for the French revues (such as the Folies Bergère) and film industry (as in such movies as Princess Tam Tam).


Following that class visit, more than two hundred Art Basel visitors descended on the library during our Friday night open house to peruse a selection of highlights from the collection. In addition to the “usual suspects,” we added an entire table of recent acquisitions that included donations from Louis Miano, Leonard Finger, Jim and Martha Sweeny, Daniel Morris, Lisa Green and Jean Sharf.


Stay tuned for further posts this December providing more information and images of these recent gifts to The Wolfsonian–FIU Library.

~ by "The Chief" on December 14, 2018.

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