“The best way to drink a cafezinho is chatting away with a dear friend!”—Sheila Thomson
With profound sadness, The Wolfsonian remembers and pays tribute to the life of Sheila Thomson (1944–2013), who passed away in January after a short illness. Sheila worked in the museum from 1998 until her retirement in 2005, chiefly in the communications department. After retiring, Sheila continued to work on special projects for the museum, including recent work of helping to populate the new website. Sheila was highly respected at The Wolfsonian for her intellectual agility, her remarkable facility with languages, her skill as a translator and editor, which the curatorial department often put to good use, as well as her early and deep knowledge of website programming. To the world at large, she was widely known for her long-running and encyclopedic website about Brazil, www.maria-brazil.org , which her family plans to continue. Established in 1995, it was the first U.S. website about Brazilian popular culture. In addition to being an authority on all things Brazilian, from music to crafts to food, Sheila was a wonderful writer and photographer, as is evident on her website and the pages of the three e-books she produced: Maria’s Cookbook: A Scrapbook of Recipes and Memories from Brazil, Serra da Capivara National Park: Cave Paintings in Brazil, and Blog da Arara, a journal of her life in Rio de Janeiro in 2007–09 (all are available through blurb.com). Sheila spent decades amassing a collection of Brazilian music, art, handicrafts, books, film, and other materials, which she donated to Florida International University in 2006. This summer the Special Collections Department at FIU’s Green Library plans to mount an exhibition drawn from the collection in honor of Sheila’s life.
Sheila began working at The Wolfsonian in the late 1990s after living in the Boston area for many years. While in Boston, she taught Portuguese to businesspeople and had a public radio show about Brazil; during a brief stint in Columbus, Ohio in the 1990s she also established a public radio show about Brazil. Sheila was born in Ijui, Rio Grande do Sul and graduated from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Faculty of Arts. In addition to her passionate connection to Brazil, she was deeply interested in a broad range of subjects from astronomy to world history. According to her daughter, Maria Eduarda Machado, Sheila was “a huge fan of the ocean and ocean life, good red wine, and pistachio gelato.” Sheila’s family suggests that donations in her honor be made to the Miami Children’s Hospital or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.