A Flurry of Wolfsonian Library Installations and Displays

This past month, the Wolfsonian librarians were particularly busy dealing with a flurry of installations and displays at the museum, and Florida International University campus. We closed one installation, All Roads Lead to Rome; opened another, Deco Designs; installed a student-curated installation, World War II and The Wolf, in the Green Library at the Modesto Maidique Campus; and put together and presented a temporary library display for the museum’s public program, PosterFest, on the theme of AIDS awareness and prevention.

All Roads Rome V2

World War II and The Wolf involved a collaborative project between the FIU Professor Terrence G. Peterson and the students taking his history class on the Second World War. Over the course of the semester, 45 students scheduled 17 research visits to The Wolfsonian Library to conduct research on specific historical archives documenting the war years. Althea (Vicki) Silvera, head, Special Collections & University Archivist, generously arranged for the student’s selections to be displayed at the Green Library.

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These included photographs and memorabilia preserved in the Aristotle [Chakiris] Ares USS Yorktown Collection and the Mel Victor WWII Pacific Theater Photograph Collection.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Aristotle Ares

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Donna Victor, in memory of her father, Mel Victor

In examining the materials from these two servicemen’s archives, some of the students were particularly struck by what they saw as attempts by the servicemen to entertain themselves and keep up morale during the many “hours of boredom” and other images that capture “moments of terror” and the devastation and horrors of combat.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Aristotle Ares

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Donna Victor, in memory of her father, Mel Victor

Other students in Dr. Peterson’s class were interested in the transformations that took place locally as the country geared up for war and Miami and Miami Beach were mobilized and placed on a war-footing.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Judith Berson-Levinson

Because of the threat posed by German submarines prowling the coastal waters, Miami Beach was transformed from a seasonal vacation resort into an Army Air Forces training base.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Judith Berson-Levinson

Carl Fisher’s grand hotels of the 1920s, the Nautilus and the Old King Cole, were converted into military hospitals while hundreds of the more modest Art Deco hotels on Miami Beach were converted into barracks, mess halls, and instruction centers.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Judith Berson-Levinson

Some of Dr. Peterson’s students used the Judith Berson-Levinson “Sand in Their Boots” Collection to focus on the transformation of women’s lives on the mainland, as women were encouraged to work as riveters and welders at the Miami Air Depot.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Judith Berson-Levinson

Others looked at a series of Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) postcards that provide a humorous look at how war service radically affected gender roles and relations and changed American women’s lives.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

A set of original postcards and correspondence between Dolores (“Lolly”) S. Lesseraux and her older brother and serviceman, Dick, provided more personal insights into the actual feelings and real-life experiences of a young woman growing up in America during the war years.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Dolores Trenner

Finally, several students mined the Victory Gold Levi Collection, an assemblage of patriotic home-front propaganda and paraphernalia, for messages motivating adherence to rationing, making do, and otherwise promoting the “V for Victory” campaign in the United States.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Victory Gold Levi

This same month, the library closed its installation showcasing tourism to Italy during the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, which included some colorful proofs designed by Futurist artist, Fortunato Depero, and opened a new one focused on vibrant pochoir (stencilwork) prints in the Art Deco style.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The new installation, Deco Designs, was curated by Wolfsonian library collections specialist Erin Heffron and features oversized portfolio plates, including some newly acquired pieces donated by Historical Design, New York that show how scientific studies of bugs and butterflies could be geometrized and made into decorative motifs and repetitive patterns for Deco-inspired wallpaper and textile designs.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Historical Design

The Wolfsonian’s digital collections curator, Yucef Merhi, created an interactive interface to allow our visitors to flip through the pages of some of these portfolios cover to cover.

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In addition to editing and curating these installations, the library staff also organized a temporary display of library materials to complement our public programing participation in year two of Posterfest: Design for Good. The Wolf partnered with AIGA Miami and the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, inviting graphic design artists to create new HIV/AIDS awareness posters inspired by classics from the Wolfsonian collection that went on display in our lobby.

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In the library, visitors were encouraged to peruse historical artifacts and public health propaganda aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The materials on display ranged from 1930s sex advice pamphlets,

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

…Federal Arts Project and Second World War-era public health and propaganda posters,

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…Second World War sex education pamphlets for G.I.s,

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

…popular Physical Culture magazines with articles on sex,

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Robert Young

…to books, periodicals, and pulp paperbacks offering tantalizing glimpses into the taboo world of “social and asocial” sexual behaviors.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

By far the most popular work on display was a recently donated copy of Madonna’s infamous 1992 Sex book, which began with a “safe sex saves lives” admonishment urging the “mandatory” use of condoms before it delved into a photographic essay on erotic fantasy.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Historical Design

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~ by "The Chief" on May 2, 2019.

2 Responses to “A Flurry of Wolfsonian Library Installations and Displays”

  1. Dear Frank, Absolutely Brilliant! Congratulation to you and all who participated in the effort! Micky

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. […] noted in an earlier post about the student installation, the materials in this collection document Miami Beach’s […]

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