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November 2011

Welcome to The Wolfsonian–Florida International University’s online experience. We are thrilled to offer this website for you to explore rich, varied, and intriguing content, including a significant (and ever-expanding) portion of our collection. Our goal is not only to provide you access to use and engage with our extensive collection, but also to raise awareness of the role that art and design plays in shaping the world.

The Wolfsonian was set in motion by a big vision: to illustrate the nexus between material artifacts and society by looking at objects as both agents and expressions of the cultural, political, and technological changes that transformed the world in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. For Wolfsonian founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., it was “the spiritual manifestation within those objects” that ultimately led him to collect and donate more than one hundred thousand works. As he explains, “I wanted to fathom human behavior and the motivation behind it in each object.”

Multidisciplinary in its approach to researching and presenting modern material culture, The Wolfsonian engages audiences in thinking about the ways design influences societal values and how it has been and continues to be an active force in shaping human experience. Herbert Muschamp, the late New York Times architecture critic, called us “One of America’s most remarkable museums.” Whether through the insidious interweaving of the swastika motif in an aluminum grille, wind-up toy spaceships, Depression-era posters pleading for help for the starving Soviet people, or the utopian promise of leisure offered by household machines, The Wolfsonian explores what it means to be modern and tells the story of changes that swept the world during this pivotal period. By extension, the collection provides vital commentary on our own times, as we explore the ways in which our recent past evolved and how those changes echo forward into our lives today.

We hope to inspire you to think—about the objects that surround you, where they were made, what motivated their creation, what role they played in changing society’s ideals and behavior, their impact on you, and your role in this interplay. Like the museum itself, our objective with this site is to transform the way you look at the objects you encounter in your daily life, be it in your domestic, work, urban, political, or commercial environments.

We are fortunate that our physical location is in Miami Beach, a vibrant international city and a dynamic cultural crossroads. A host to tourists from throughout the world, the city is also a major point of entry for new immigrants and a nexus for world commerce. Its character is that of a global frontier, a place where anything is possible. The Wolfsonian taps into this energy and is the surprising destination that its collection inspires. Being located in the heart of the Art Deco architectural district is also fortunate. The collection mirrors the period in which the physical environment of the community developed, and is housed in a renovated historic building from that period. The Wolfsonian is helping to define Miami Beach as a center for the study and appreciation of architecture and design, and as a destination for new generations. In its relatively short history, The Wolfsonian has become an intellectual and cultural beacon of the city; our objective is to extend its influence so it becomes an integral part of the fabric of the world’s cultural patrimony.

This website is just one of our offerings to you. We hope you consider this to be your site. Please come back often, as we continually will be adding content. Our ultimate goal is to share our full collection with the world and engage in a two-way dialog about its significance. This website will evolve, and we want to hear your reactions and what the collection inspires you to think about. We hope you will share the website with friends, family, and colleagues. Please let me know your thoughts, your feedback, and your suggestions. Feel free to contact me at director@thewolf.fiu.edu.

Please make a point of coming to visit us when you’re in Miami Beach. Also know that, as with most cultural institutions, we rely on your support to offer our exhibitions, our programs, and to disseminate materials such as this website. Every level of support [1] is deeply appreciated.

I hope you enjoy your visit! And come back soon!

Cathy Leff
Director