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Vasari Project Archive, Miami-Dade Public Library System

Miami-Dade Public Library System

Innovation Leader: Helen Kohen, Vasari Project Consultant, kohenh@mdpls.org

Problem Statement

Miami’s incredible transition to a respected center of the arts has happened in a relatively short period of time, attracting international art fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach. As our community and its artistic production have become larger and more diverse, so has the need to document and understand them.

Innovation

The Vasari Project Archive documents the development of the visual arts in Miami-Dade County since 1945. It was founded in 2000 to establish a living archive of materials that serve as the basis for ongoing research, scholarship, exhibitions and events and includes correspondence, press clippings, photographs, posters, books, exhibition catalogues, oral histories and other ephemeral materials. Its purpose is to preserve and build upon an important phase of Florida history: Miami-Dade County’s transformation into a significant hemispheric art center. The collection grows almost exclusively through donations and contributions from art institutions, organizations, and the public. With support from a small group of volunteers and Art Services staff, a grant-funded consultant cultivates donations and public awareness of the resource through outreach and public programming. Programs have included “Vasari chats” at Main Library; class visits by students from New World School of the Arts and Florida International University; lectures about Miami’s art history through the Miami Art Museum’s current “Art in Miami” series; presentations at local galleries, nonprofit arts organizations, bookstores, and meetings of ArtTable (national organization for women in the arts); curated displays as part of library exhibitions; and a lecture/video series in partnership with the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archive.

Progress

As of 2010, the Vasari Project Archive holds over 300 archival cartons containing at least 6,000 items documenting all aspects of Miami’s art history, including substantial documentation of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands and other major projects. The archive receives donations of important historical materials on a regular basis; all materials are cataloged and publicly searchable on the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s web catalog. Vasari frequently fields reference questions about artists and art in Miami from the public, from reference librarians, and from institutions all over the country. Curators, students, journalists and MDPLS’s own Art Services and Exhibitions Department use Vasari for research. Reproductions of Vasari materials appeared in the 2007 book Miami Contemporary Artists. In 2008, the archive loaned archival materials to El Museo del Barrio for the landmark exhibition Arte No Es Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000, which will travel to museums in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina through 2011.