Maybe you aren’t jetting off to Rome for the holidays, but you can still get the paperweight. Meta-souvenirs ($80, from two inches to five-and-a-half inches high) are eye-catching, handmade crystal paperweights of famous international sites from Beijing, Jerusalem, Paris, Rome, and Washington, D.C. These make great gifts—who can’t put a paperweight to good use? Speaking of gifts, ’tis the time. And The Wolfsonian’s Museum Shop ’tis the place. We have great gifts at all price points and for a range of ages. Take the Cake of Peace, for example.
The Wolfsonian is pleased to announce the recent appointment of three new members to its advisory board. The board supports the museum’s mission and growth; advises the director on issues including programs, policies, and planning; and assists in fundraising efforts.
“We are honored to have Steve, David, and Richard join our advisory board. With their diverse professional backgrounds, wide-ranging interests, and incredible accomplishments, they are each a valuable addition and it will be a privilege to work with them,” says Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff.
“When the Invisible Glass Company of America cleared its last patent, nothingness—non-existence—suddenly became a piece of merchandise.”—Apparel Arts, 1936
Visitors passing through The Wolfsonian’s ground floor elevator lobby may very well not notice the two unobtrusive bronze window frames installed there. This absenting is appropriate, as retreat from the immediate visual field has always been the objects’ aspiration. Meet the Invisible Window.
The story of the Invisible Window begins in the late nineteenth century with the rise of a new mercantile model known as the department store. These retail venues offered a wide range of goods under a single roof to an increasingly affluent customer base. Innovative merchandising developed in tandem with the spectacle of mass commerce. The department store fashioned itself as a site of desire (or a font of commodity fetishism, as you prefer), with the modern storefront show window playing a principle part in the mobilization of consumer want. These systems of display were and are a foremost means of placing goods in public view such that the citizenry may encounter them casually in the course of daily life. Dispensing with many vital years and details brings us to the 1935 founding of the Invisible Glass Company of America, which acquired the United States patents for the commercial production of invisibility, viz. the Invisible Window.
The Wolfsonian recently launched a series of publications focused on core themes in the museum’s collection. The first installment, The Birth of Rome: Five Visions for the Eternal City, explores the persistence of Rome in Italian national consciousness during the years of Fascist dictatorship through a close look at five architectural and urban planning projects. Written by curator Silvia Barisione and edited by assistant curator Matthew Abess, the book includes an illustrated essay by Barisione followed by fifty-five full-color pages of plates.
Currently on view is an exhibition of the same title, and while there is a good deal of common ground, the publication allows space for an extended written investigation into the subject. “The collection is quite generous in that it is always revealing new stories and contexts. This series of publications will give us and our readership the opportunity to explore these areas of meaningful, often unexpected connection. As a microcosm of themes embedded in the overall collection—from the consolidation of national identities to the integration of tradition with revolutionary change—The Birth of Rome is a fitting inauguration,” explains Abess.
Several leaders in digital technology, drawn from multiple fields, donated their time for a day-long brainstorming session with Wolfsonian staff members on December 7. This was the first meeting of the museum’s Digital Media Strategy Group, although several of the group’s members have visited the museum individually during the past several months.
“This workshop resulted in a significant shift in the way we, as a museum, think about the many possibilities for digital engagement,” says Sharon Aponte Misdea, The Wolfsonian’s deputy director for collections and curatorial affairs. “Our goal, as set forth in our five-year strategic plan, is to expand online engagement with our collection—to digitally tell stories about the objects of everyday life in a uniquely Wolfsonian way—and reconsider established museum and library approaches to interaction with audiences. The meeting, which focused initially on enhancing our digital contribution, included discussion about bridging our online and physical experiences. It was incredibly productive and we’re excited about continuing the conversation in the coming months.”
There was a day of presentations by museum professionals from as far away as Germany and Brazil, an evening with world-renowned architects, and a party celebrating Rebirth of Rome to the beat of French swing music. These were just a few of the many events, some public and some private, that took place at The Wolfsonian during the week of Art Basel Miami Beach, in early December.
“What I find so interesting about Rome is you can trace the civilization over thousands of years because it’s a city that doesn’t discard. It alters and adds on, but through all the changes, Rome maintains its identity,” says Richard Miltner, The Wolfsonian’s exhibition designer. This sense of self through the ages, the ability to accommodate different eras and style, such as the classical and the modern, was a primary inspiration for the design of the three exhibitions in the series Rebirth of Rome.