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Two decades later, Wolfsonian-FIU a singular reflection of modern history—and its founder

Two decades later, Wolfsonian-FIU a singular reflection of modern history—and its founder

July 1, 2017 at 12:00am

Someone with a keen eye, an exhaustive knowledge of world history and the means to purchase pretty much whatever he deems a valuable artifact needs more than a closet to hold his treasures.

Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr. has devoted a lifetime to collecting objects—180,000 and counting—that reflect the design as well as the social and political upheaval of the era that spans the height of the Industrial Revolution through the aftermath of World War II. Today many of them live at the Wolfsonian-FIU.

The Miami Beach museum, library and research center focuses on North American and European decorative arts, architecture and industrial and graphic design from 1850 to 1950. It houses furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, paintings and more. The collection, including books and documents, serves as a resource for scholars investigating topics such as the impact of media and other activities used to promote the New Deal in the 1930s and attitudes of the Russian imperial family toward its subjects of non-Russian stock. The galleries offer an unprecedented opportunity for amateur historians and casual visitors alike to view such disparate work as modernist clocks and radios, art nouveau coffee pots, an English sideboard in the Arts and Crafts style, World’s Fair posters and Nazi propaganda.

In 2017 the university celebrates the 20th anniversary of Wolfson’s philanthropic contribution of his unique trove and the magnificent Art Deco building in which it resides. (He also donated a second building that stores what is not on display.)

“The Wolfsonian-FIU is a jewel and one of the most fascinating museums in the country,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg says. “It teaches us something about a time that continues to impact our own.”

The museum is open to the public, with free admission to FIU students, alumni and employees. It is located at 1001 Washington Ave.