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Florida International University announces gift from Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. to The Wolfsonian-FIU
The objects, rare books, and other items in the promised gift have been collected by Wolfson over the course of the past sixteen years, since he donated The Wolfsonian (the collection and its historic Miami Beach site) to Florida International University in 1997. Courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU.

MIAMI BEACH, FL.- Florida International University has announced another magnanimous gift from Wolfsonian founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., which significantly strengthens the museum’s singular collection and expands the museum’s physical presence to downtown Miami. The gift includes three floors of exhibitions space in a building on Flagler Street, in the heart of downtown, along with an irrevocable promised gift of approximately 25,000 objects, rare books, works-on-paper, and archives that complement and enhance the museum’s collection of modern visual and material culture. The gift coincides with a period of growth for The Wolfsonian and is aligned with the five-year plan the institution adopted in January 2013, which triggered a major grant of five million dollars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in support of greater public access to the collection.

The three floors in the new Wolfsonian downtown Miami space comprise an expansive twenty thousand square feet. The objects, rare books, and other items in the promised gift have been collected by Wolfson over the course of the past sixteen years, since he donated The Wolfsonian (the collection and its historic Miami Beach site) to Florida International University in 1997. Wolfson collected during those years in consultation with curators and librarians at the museum, focusing on materials that would strengthen and deepen the museum’s holdings. His private collecting, therefore, has concentrated on the same time period (1885–1945) and themes as those in The Wolfsonian’s collection. The new downtown space will enable the museum to build on its education and research offerings and offer a qualitatively different way of engaging with the collection—however, The Wolfsonian will remain headquartered in Miami Beach with plans to vastly expand its offerings there.

“I can’t say how reassuring it is for me to know that these materials are in such safe hands,” said Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. "I have always intended to share the collection. Only a great institution like The Wolfsonian and its collaborators can really probe the true depth of what's been collected. This is a very profound collection and it takes a great institution to be able to make use and broadcast this work. I am thrilled to turn it over to The Wolfsonian and Florida International University.”

“Once again, FIU benefits from the generosity of Micky Wolfson,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “Micky continues to demonstrate his trust in FIU as an institution, and we could not be more pleased with the gift or more proud to receive it and share it.”

The Wolfsonian houses one of the most important collections in the world of visual and material culture from 1885 to 1945. The collection, comprising 120,000 art and design objects and materials primarily from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, addresses issues of politics, mass communication, technological change, war, ideology, ethnic and national identity, urbanism, globalization, and many other phenomena that remain critical to understanding today’s world.

This latest gift from Wolfson supports The Wolfsonian’s mission to use objects to illustrate the persuasive power of art and design, to explore what it means to be modern, and to tell the story of social, political, and technological changes that have transformed our world. In doing so, the museum encourages people to see the world in new ways, and to learn from the past, give meaning to the present, and shape the future.

“Now is an incredibly exciting time for The Wolfsonian,” said advisory board chairman Neil Flanzraich. “This gift is so generous, and so well-timed. As we move forward to further develop the museum’s potential to better serve local and global communities, the expansion in terms of both the collection and the real estate could not be more welcome.”

The Wolfsonian is currently embarking on a master plan, supported by funds from the City of Miami Beach. That master plan will be developed in service to the goals articulated in the recently adopted five-year strategic plan. Among the key goals the museum will focus on in its next phase of growth are:

• To increase visibility and engagement and make The Wolfsonian a hub for the exploration and exchange of ideas.

• To provide greater online access to the collection, using new new media to encourage people to interact with the museum and each other, to co-create content, and to promote the use of Wolfsonian resources for independent content.

• To promote research on the collection by expanding access to the collection for research, learning, and engagement.

• To strengthen The Wolfsonian’s infrastructure to care for and provide greater access to its collections and resources.

“This incredible gift comes just as we are moving into the third phase of our development—we are now firmly established as a significant cultural institution and an integral part of a major research university. We are at a point in our history where we are embarking on a period of substantial growth and are ready to tackle the challenges ahead with enthusiasm,” said Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “We are proud to be the steward of Micky’s life’s work, first with the gift of his original collection and now, with this gift of his downtown Miami real estate holdings and the promised gift of his private collection. We have the expertise to care for the collection and nterpret it and share it with the public. We very much look forward to this next phase of growth and the many rewards we know it will bring to our diverse audiences.”

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