July 05 2013

“Collecting is a constant of the human condition,” says Wolfsonian founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. It has certainly been a constant in his own life—he began collecting at age 12 and has not stopped. Gifting has also been a constant in Wolfson’s life. Sixteen years ago, he donated The Wolfsonian’s building and its contents to Florida International University. On July 1 he made another major donation to The Wolfsonian–FIU. His gift of three floors of an office condominium building in the heart of downtown Miami and an irrevocable promised gift of approximately twenty-five thousand objects, rare books, works-on-paper, and archives significantly expands The Wolfsonian’s physical presence and enhances its singular collection.

After his 1997 donation to FIU, Wolfson continued collecting, concentrating on the same time period (1885–1945), themes, and types of objects as those represented in The Wolfsonian’s collection. Wolfson’s collecting in the past sixteen years has been informed by close consultation with curators and librarians at the museum, focusing on materials that would strengthen and deepen the museum’s holdings.

“I can’t say how reassuring it is for me to know that these materials are in such safe hands,” Wolfson says. “I have always intended to share the collection. Only a great institution like The Wolfsonian and its collaborators can really probe the true depth of what’s been collected. This is a very profound collection and it takes a great institution to be able to make use and broadcast this work. I am thrilled to turn it over.”

The twenty-thousand-square-foot downtown space, located on Flagler Street, will enable the museum to build on education and research offerings and offer a qualitatively different way of engaging with the collection. The Wolfsonian will remain headquartered in Miami Beach with plans to vastly expand offerings there.

“This incredibly generous gift comes at a pivotal time for The Wolfsonian. We are entering a new phase of growth as a major cultural institution with holdings that are the strongest of their kind,” says Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “We are proud to be the steward of Micky’s life’s work. We have the expertise to care for the collection and interpret it and share it with the public. We very much look forward to this next phase of growth and the many rewards we know it will bring to our diverse audiences.”

This gift is aligned with the five-year strategic plan the institution adopted in January 2013, which triggered a major grant of five million dollars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in support of greater public access to the collection.

“Now is a very exciting period for The Wolfsonian,” notes advisory board chairman Neil Flanzraich. “This gift is so generous, and so well-timed. As we move forward to further develop the museum’s potential to better serve local and global communities, the expansion in terms of both the collection and the real estate could not be more welcome.”

The Wolfsonian is currently embarking on a master plan, supported by funds from the City of Miami Beach. That master plan will be developed in service to the goals articulated in the strategic plan. Among the key goals the museum will focus on in its next phase of growth are:

“Once again, FIU benefits from the generosity of Micky Wolfson,” says FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “Micky continues to demonstrate his trust in FIU as an institution, and we could not be more pleased with the gift or more proud to receive it and share it.”

Read the Miami Herald article [1] about the donation.

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Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s donation includes downtown Miami space and a promised gift of more than twenty-five thousand objects. 

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