The Wolfsonian-FIU receives $5 million to increase access to collection

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded a $5 million grant to The Wolfsonian–FIU to support programs that will provide greater public access to the museum’s collection of art and design, especially by enhancing its online offerings and reach.

wolfsonian-insideThe grant, announced Dec. 3 at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, is part of $23 million in new funding that the Knight Foundation has awarded to support the arts in South Florida.

The Wolfsonian will receive its Knight Foundation grant over a five-year period. That support will go toward realizing a major component of the museum’s five-year plan, namely creating one of the world’s most important online resources of visual and material culture. The Wolfsonian will make a large part of its collection—hundreds of thousands of images and records—accessible to anyone around the globe with an Internet connection, inspiring  creation, content generation, sharing, and dissemination among user groups defined by interest, not by geography.

“We are proud of The Wolfsonian and its achievements since Mitchell Wolfson Jr. set it in motion 17 years ago,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “The Knight Foundation’s recognition and critical support of the institution marks an exciting transition point in our museum’s young history and development.”

Since it opened in 1995 and joined FIU two years later, The Wolfsonian has established an international reputation for its exhibitions, publications, and programs, while forming strong ties to the South Florida community; grown its collection and acquired real estate to support long-term growth; created an online presence; and built a talented professional staff and board. At the core of all of these achievements is The Wolfsonian’s collection, which consists of more than 100,000 decorative arts objects, sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, posters, rare books and periodicals, and ephemeral items (such as brochures, advertisements, postcards, and matchbooks), almost all from the late 19th century to the end of World War II.

“I am honored to be a part of this institution at this exciting moment, as the museum is poised to move into its next phase of development,” said Neil Flanzraich, chairman of the museum’s Advisory Board. “The Knight Foundation grant will drive the important work we’ve been doing into the future and accelerate our vision to share the collection with people from around the world as we move forward.”

In addition to providing greater online access to the collection in a user-centered and user-animated online environment, The Wolfsonian also plans to improve physical access to the collection through enhanced facilities and a more dynamic exhibition program, to increase the commitment to research and publication, and to raise its visibility through high-profile public programming.

“The Knight Foundation has been a critical driver of South Florida’s cultural renaissance,” said Cathy Leff, The Wolfsonian’s director. “With this grant, the Foundation will make a major impact on The Wolfsonian, enabling us to realize our potential to present our collection not only to the immediate community, but to a global online community.”

This is the second time the Knight Foundation has offered major support for The Wolfsonian. In 2009, the Foundation awarded $500,000 to the museum for the “Art of Illumination,” a program of projections on the façade of The Wolfsonian’s 1001 Washington Avenue headquarters building, which will be completed in 2013. In all, over the last six years the Knight Foundation has supported the arts in South Florida by awarding more than $86 million in grants to both grassroots and established organizations.

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