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"Advertising for Health" on View at the Wolfsonian-FIU
Sign, Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills, c. 1910. Published by Comstock Company, Morristown , New York. Commercial color lithograph. The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. Gift of William H. Helfand, XC2009.07.12.1
MIAMI BEACH, FL.- The Wolfsonian–Florida International University presents Advertising for Health, an installation that explores nearly a century of advertising for medicine, pharmacy, and public health. The installation features rare advertisements, printed ephemera, and posters from a recent gift by William H. Helfand, a recognized author and print collector. Together with a selection of printed materials and objects from a rarely-exhibited segment of The Wolfsonian’s collection, these works reflect, through their design strategies, changing ideas about health in the Americas and Europe between the late nineteenth century and the Second World War. The objects on view also encourage reflection on the “pursuit of health” in the present by conveying the lively history underlying issues that remain current today.

The Wolfsonian has a particularly rich collection of books, periodicals, and ephemera about physical culture in the U.S.; publications regarding housing reform and urban planning related to health and hygiene; public health campaign materials; and personal care and hygiene objects, such as razors, massagers, and sunlamps. “Mr. Helfand’s gift significantly deepens our collection in the area of medical and pharmaceuticals advertising,” says Marianne Lamonaca, curator of the exhibition and The Wolfsonian’s associate director for curatorial affairs and education. “The installation also relates to a substantial future project, explains Lamonaca. “The Wolfsonian is in the early stages of organizing a large, traveling exhibition, Better! Cleaner! Stronger! Design and the Pursuit of Health, 1918–1945. Its focus will be on a time when European and American designers were called upon to remake the physical and visual world for the sake of healthier individuals and societies. It will explore the impact on that era’s visual and material culture of ideas about health—ideas that shaped the policies of states, that drove social movements, and that inspired visions of the future.”

The installation Advertising for Health is organized to celebrate two milestones at Florida International University : the inaugural year of the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and The Wolfsonian’s fifteenth anniversary. “On the occasion of the museum’s fifteenth anniversary,” notes Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff, “we are recognizing the important contributions of donors to our collection. We are also showing a complementary exhibition, Bernarr Macfadden and the American Physical Culture Movement: Selections from the Gift of Robert J. Young in The Wolfsonian’s Rare Book and Special Collections Library.” The library display, curated by Francis X. Luca, Wolfsonian chief librarian and FIU adjunct professor of history, opened on February 5 and focuses on Bernarr Macfadden, a pioneer of the American physical culture movement, a body-builder, and a self-made millionaire. Macfadden used his publishing empire to distribute popular magazines and books that championed his crusade against Victorian prudery, exposed early twentieth-century medical establishment quackery, and advocated better living through a healthy diet and physical fitness.

Wolfsonian-FIU | "Advertising for Health" | Francis X. Luca |

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