New Collection Celebrates and Preserves Urban Art in Florida

A unique collection generously donated by Barbara Young in honor of her late husband, artist and teacher Robert Huff, is now available for research. The Robert Huff Collection includes a vast array of exhibit catalogs dating back from the 1980s to the present. Of interest are the sheer number and variety of exhibits that cropped up all around Miami, showcasing different artists with their own brand and identity that contributed something valuable and new to the art scene.

At the forefront of the collection is one name splayed across many of these exhibit catalogs – Robert Huff himself, a former art professor and chairman at Miami Dade College. His stunning, three-dimensional visual style was celebrated throughout the decades as a welcome presence in Miami as his use of bright colors intersects with architectural designs to create pieces that are unexpectedly harmonious in spite of their disparate elements. Segmenting lines and geometrical shapes present in many of his artworks are where these elements meet and interact to create layered images that paint an urban jungle for its audience to be lured into, inviting them to traverse deeper into the story he tried to tell in each piece.


These catalogs serve as a celebration of his prominence and success here in Miami and will hopefully evoke the curiosity of future young artists and researchers who wish to delve deeper into his work and those of his contemporaries. We invite you all to come stop by and take a look through the exhibition catalogs to experience the way the urban art movement has shaped Miami’s cultural scene as a whole.

Capturing Florida’s local art scene is one of our key collecting areas here in Special Collections as we feel it has something unique and culturally significant to offer current and future generations. We are striving to document as much of it as possible before historical materials are lost or disappear into the ether (as so many websites do), so materials such as our newly acquired Robert Huff Collection have become crucial to our initiative to preserve Florida’s modern history with the same eclectic flair that we experience in our day-to-day lives living here in this energetic and artistically vibrant city.

Join Us for a Presentation of Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir by Wendy Sue Knecht on January 19


University of Miami Special Collections cordially invites you to a presentation of the book

Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir
by Wendy Sue Knecht

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Reception 6:30 p.m. | Presentation to follow

Otto G. Richter Library, 8th Floor
University of Miami | 1300 Memorial Drive | Coral Gables, FL 33146

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP to or call 305-284-3247

As a “naïve, frizzy-haired college student” Wendy Sue Knecht joined Pan American World Airways in pursuit of a career filled with travel, adventure, and opportunity. Knecht will present her memoir Life, Love, and a Hijacking and share select readings from her book and a trailer for the film Neerja, based on the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73. Life, Love, and a Hijacking recounts Knecht’s own arrival in Pakistan on Flight 73 hours before the hijacking, the event, its aftermath, and the tragic story of heroic flight purser Neerja Bhanot. Knecht’s reading is part of ongoing efforts by Special Collections and the Pan Am community to document and share the stories of people connected to the historic airline.

Please click map image below to enlarge. Contact us at 305-284-3247 or with questions about directions and parking.


Local Food Experts Engage Foodie Community of South Florida


Click the image above to watch a video of the discussion on May 13. More photos from the event can be viewed on Facebook.

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Local food experts reflected on South Florida’s abundant natural offerings, strong multicultural seasonings, and rich supply of untapped resources—all shaping the area’s evolving culinary landscape during a panel discussion at UM Special Collections’ Tropical Gastronomies. The event featured chef and cookbook author Norman Van Aken, food blogger and Edible South Florida editor Gretchen Schmidt, and author and historian Mandy Baca.

Mandy Baca is talking.

Mandy Baca, author of The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine: Cortaditos, Stone Crabs & Empanadas, discusses Miami food history with chef and cookbook author Norman Van Aken and food blogger and Edible South Florida editor Gretchen Schmidt.

Moderated by Special Collections Head Cristina Favretto, the discussion touched on well-established fares and flavors such as stone crabs, citrus, and mangos, the formation of Van Aken’s New World Cuisine, and how recent developments like the farm-to-table movement are shedding light on lesser-known edible flora and fauna. The event was held as part of a UM Libraries-wide exhibition exploring the rich culinary traditions of South Florida, Cuba, and the Caribbean. Vintage restaurant postcards and menus, local organizational cookbooks, and dining brochures from Pan American World Airlines, Inc., and other materials are on display from Special Collections.

During the event, Favretto announced that Special Collections aims to further its collection of food- and cooking-related materials through the establishment of the Culinary History Collection of Florida, and is seeking donations of historical materials such as restaurant menus, local and regional recipe books, oral histories with chefs, and images of restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets. Individuals interested in contributing to the archive are encouraged to contact Special Collections at 305-284-3247 or

Photos by Andrew Innerarity.


The discussion touched on well-established fares and flavors and how recent developments like the farm-to-table movement are shedding light on lesser-known edible flora and fauna.

Special Collections’ Food Chains Screening Opens Discussion on Farmworker Exploitation

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Food Chains is available for checkout on DVD from Richter Library.

Click the image above to watch a video of the discussion on April 22. More photos from the event can be viewed on Facebook.

Local farmworkers demanding fair labor practices in farm fields are making meaningful changes in one of the nation’s most critically relied on but historically exploited areas of the labor force. An event at the University of Miami Special Collections on April 22 brought together UM students, faculty, and community members for a screening and discussion of the documentary Food Chains: The Revolution in America’s Fields, directed by Sanjay Rawal. The film documents the activities of a group of farmworkers in Immokalee, southwest Florida, in their fight for living wages and workers’ rights.

“Special Collections is a community resource. This is an opportunity to promote meaningful discussion about issues that are close to many South Floridians and affect farmworkers across the country,” says Beatrice Skokan, manuscripts librarian at Special Collections who organized the screening and panel discussion.

IMG_7958-webPanelists included Will Pestle, an associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, Silvia Perez, farmworker leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and Natali Rodriguez, national staff member of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, engaging in a discussion on the many issues in farm labor described in the documentary, which premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and is gaining national exposure on Netflix streaming. Food Chains is available for checkout at Richter Library.

Based in Immokalee, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of tomatoes, the film describes the inhumane realities of the largely undocumented migrant workers who carry out long and strenuous daily physical labor in tomato fields for meager pay. Human rights violations ranging from sexual abuse to slave labor often go unreported out of fear of retaliation or deportation.

“The hardest thing is coming to the realization of how little you mean to the people you are working for,” says Gerardo Reyes Chavez, one of the workers featured in the film who helped form the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) as a means to advocate for a better quality of life for farmworkers. One significant step of the CIW is the establishment of the Fair Food Program, which demands that large purchasers of tomatoes acknowledge their reliance on farmworkers. Participating food retailers and farms agree to pay workers one penny more per pound of tomatoes picked and eradicate abuse in the fields.

Since 2011, major corporations including Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Chipotle, and McDonald’s have signed on to the program, meaning they have agreed to buy tomatoes exclusively from Fair Food Program farms. Since its inception, the program has added $15 million to workers’ payrolls.

Following the film, panelists and audience members engaged in a discussion moderated by Will Pestle. Many questions were directed towards Silvia Perez, a leader of the CIW who appeared in the film, about current efforts of the CIW, such as the continuation of a long-fought campaign to gain the support of Publix, and the spread of their mission to other regions and types of agriculture. Click here to view the discussion.

Silvia Perez, a leader in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, discusses the fight for fair labor standards in a panel discussion following the film. Photo by Andrew Innerarity.

Special Collections Celebrates Milestone for the Pan Am World Airways Collection

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

The planes bearing the name “Pan Am” may have retired nearly 25 years ago, but the company itself is still generating buzz as a pop culture fixture and timeless icon of progress and innovation. At the center of the conversation is University of Miami’s Special Collections, home of Pan Am World Airways’ official archive. The department receives thousands of requests for Pan Am records each year.


Archivist Emily Gibson led the two-year cataloging project for the Pan Am archive.

“People want to know everything from technical information about the planes and flight routes to details about in-flight meals or the evolution of flight attendants’ uniforms,” says archivist Emily Gibson, who has been working solely on the collection—one of UM’s largest and most popular—over the past two years. The work she has led is the cause for an upcoming celebration, Cleared to Land, which will take place at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center on January 29.

The event, presented by Special Collections, will include a reception and presentation culminating in a runway show by World Wings International, Inc., an organization of former Pan Am flight attendants who participate in a number of charitable causes worldwide. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Head of Special Collections Cristina Favretto says the event celebrates significant improvements in access to the Pan Am archive through the efforts of Gibson and 15 UM students. In 2012 the department hired Gibson through a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission to reorganize the collection’s 1,500 boxes of historical records, including photographs, administrative records, flight routes, publications, and many other materials acquired by Special Collections in 1992. “Emily and her team did a complete overhaul of the collection, and the result is a much more organized set of materials that are significantly easier to navigate and research,” she says, adding that Gibson has become the department’s “de facto Pan Am expert” in the process.


University of Miami cheerleaders at the christening of the Pan American Clipper Hurricane, a DC-4, tail number N88898, Miami, Florida, 1951.

Researchers come from all over the world to use the collection, with materials related to Latin America and the Caribbean having an especially large draw. Doctoral student Felipe Cruz visited the collection in 2012 from the University of Texas-Austin through the Pan Am Historical Foundation’s Abrams Banning Grant and was able to use materials ranging from maps to corporate records to complete his dissertation on the development of modern Brazil. The collection was also a research resource for the 2011 television series Pan Am.

Gibson says the fact that there’s public access to the archive already makes it unique. “Very few corporations release their records to the public, and the establishment of an archive of this company, which has made such a large global impact, has created an incredible opportunity for researchers of all kinds of topics related to the twentieth century, from World War II to the Beatles’ first U.S. tour to the very planes that made flights affordable to the general public.”

Over the course of the project Gibson, with the help of her student team, created a new online finding aid (search tool) pointing to the various areas of the collection. She also steered the content development of a mini-website for the collection, which was created by UM Libraries’ Digital Collections.


Grant winner Hadassah St. Hubert receives her award from former Pan Am station manager Al Topping.

UM doctoral student Hadassah St. Hubert began her research through the Abrams Banning Grant while Gibson’s project was approaching the finish line. She says the new finding aid helped her locate the materials that are now supporting her thesis about the push for Haiti’s rise as a tourist destination in the 1950s. “Since my project looks at the increasing role of tourism of Haiti, I analyze materials such as photographs, letters, advertisements, as well as government documents,” she said in a recent interview about her work. “My archival ‘jolt’ moment was when I discovered that Pan Am had increased its advertising of Haiti from less than $50,000 in the late 1940s to $1,000,000 by the mid-1950s. I had always heard that Haiti was a popular destination for U.S. tourists, including Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1970s. This evidence shows that Pan Am truly believed that Haiti could be a year-round resort for tourists and they invested heavily to make this happen.”

Favretto says the completion of the project will open the door for many others to use the collection. However, there is additional work remaining, including a large section of materials that still need to be cataloged and added to the finding aid. For the long term, Special Collections and Pan Am affiliates hope to retain the full-time support of a Pan Am archivist.

Since the grant ended, Gibson has been promoting the collection on Special Collections’ social media using the hashtag #PanAmAlive, which she says was inspired from talking to so many former Pan Am employees devoted to preserving the company’s legacy. Her involvement in the January 29 event, and working with the former flight attendants of World Wings International, Inc. who will be presenting the runway show, has only fueled her excitement for all things Pan Am. “Their enthusiasm for the history of the company is contagious,” she says. “People will be inspired to visit the collection themselves, which is an important part of keeping Pan Am ‘alive!’”

For more information about this event, or to RSVP, please contact or call 305-284-4026.

Key West Literary Seminar Partners with UML


The Key West Literary Seminar is partnering with the University of Miami’s Special Collections to preserve the dynamic history of KWLS through the establishment of an official archive. A vast collection of correspondence, business papers, photographs, recordings, and ephemera acquired over the past 33 years of the Seminar will be preserved and made accessible to the public at Special Collections, which is located at the Otto G. Richter Library on UM’s Coral Gables campus.

The archive will serve to document KWLS’ activity since 1983, when the organization first arrived on the island’s thriving literary scene, through the past three decades in which the Seminar has become a catalyst in the discourse of the diverse and dynamic community of writers, artists, critics, and an intellectually questing audience. Historical materials will be processed and organized by Special Collections to become easily searchable for researchers and scholars, inviting new opportunities for many creative endeavors and collaborations.

Special Collections is an access point for an outstanding array of scholarly resources including collections of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, prints, broadsides, posters, audio-visual materials, newspapers and journals, and other research materials. The library department houses, among many others, the papers of Pan American Airlines, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, many of the founding families of South Florida, as well as a large and growing Counterculture Collection, and over 50,000 rare and unique books. Special Collections also hosts diverse and wide-ranging events and exhibitions, and is looking forward to working with the Key West community to forge enduring literary, artistic, and scholarly ties.

For more information about Special Collections at the University of Miami Libraries, please visit or contact Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections, at or 305-284-3247.

COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL: Althea “Gerry” Lister Papers

emily-headshot_thumbA Pick of the Week from

Special Collections of the UM Libraries

By Emily Gibson


One of Pan Am’s earliest and most notable employees, Althea “Gerry” Lister made many strides as a woman in the aviation world, serving as the Secretary to the General Traffic Manager, then as an Assistant to the Passenger Service Manager, and finally as the Pan Am Museum’s curator and company historian.


Althea “Gerry” Lister receives her 45-year service pin from Chairman William T. Seawell, July 30, 1973.

Gerry Lister began her career with Pan Am as far back as 1928 and was the first female employee to receive a 15-year pin, a 20-year pin, and a 30-year pin, and she was the first employee overall to receive the 45-year pin, indicating the wealth of dedication she had for the company. In an article from the July 1958 issue of The Clipper discussing the reception of her 30-year pin, Lister describes her most memorable moment in her 30 years with Pan Am as the day she was sitting with President Juan J. Trippe in his office in New York just as the Clipper America was preparing to take off on its very first commercial round-the-world air trip.


Lister dusts a model of the Yankee Clipper on exhibit at the Clipper Hall Museum located inside John F. Kennedy International Airport where she was museum curator, March 2, 1965.

This brand new collection that we recently received as an adjacent collection to our Pan American Airways, Inc. Records currently holds two fascinating albums, donated to us through a private donor, that detail much of Lister’s work through photos, clippings, documentation, and ephemera, all of which illustrate her accomplishments during the length of her service. Stemming from an early interest and technical understanding of planes, flying, and maintenance, she contributed to the company in ways that were highly unusual for a woman of her time. She herself had piloted nearly every type of plane from the time she was a young adult, a feat that had been largely restricted to men back then and one that still remains prevalent today given the ratio of female to male pilots.

One of the albums contains a draft written by Lister, entitled “Along Air Avenues,” wherein she describes the daily procedures of a plane’s pilot and its staff down to its most minute  of details, from pre-flight checks to the plane’s regular maintenance and safety precautions. The draft highlights her level of expertise in piloting and aviation management while also indicating her willingness to inspire and educate future pilots by explaining every facet of a typical flight with her level of depth.

This collection, now in process, will soon be available for research.

COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL is written by Yvette Yurubi and showcases unique items at Special Collections and the University Archives discovered by librarians and staff members while on the job. They gather monthly for “Show and Tell” to present their top finds. You too can experience these items up close, and access other rare and interesting treasures, by visiting Special Collections and the University Archives, located on the 8th floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

Special Collections and Department of Theatre Arts to Present “Scholarly Séance” on October 29

Reanimating Spectral Collections

Click the image for more information.

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

Haunted tales of ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and other spirit creatures will soon take over the University of Miami Special Collections, transforming the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library into a spectral wonderland. The library department, which preserves a wide range of rare books, manuscripts, and other unique materials is collaborating with the Department of Theatre Arts to present a “scholarly séance” channeling eerie insights from the Jackie Gleason Collection and other texts from the realm of parapsychology.

Theater students will perform readings from several notable scholarly and popular texts, mainly from the Gleason Collection, delving into a variety of mysterious and otherworldly topics that range from local encounters with the paranormal (e.g. phantoms at the Biltmore Hotel) to past reflections on death and dying.

All members of the UM community as well as the public are invited to attend Reanimating Spectral Collections on October 29, 7 p.m., at Special Collections. Refreshments will be served at the event, but seating is limited, so an RSVP is required to attend.

Special Collections Head Cristina Favretto says the event is centered on accounts of the paranormal, the unidentified, and all things shudder-inducing from the holdings of the Jackie Gleason Collection, which includes more than 1,700 books, journals, and publications collected by actor Jackie Gleason. “Jackie Gleason studied spiritualism and the occult for most of his adult life and was quite a serious scholar on these subjects,” Favretto says.

After the world famous entertainer and star of The Honeymooners died in 1987, his widow, Marilyn Gleason, donated his parapsychology archive to Special Collections. The vast collection of scholarly and popular works includes writings on witchcraft, folklore, extrasensory perception (ESP), UFOs, reincarnation, mysticism, and many other aspects of parapsychology. The Gleason Collection, which also includes a smaller portion of materials related to the entertainment industry, is permanently housed at Special Collections and accessible to researchers.

“These are materials that are considered highly important to the field of parapsychology but also hold significance to literature, popular culture, scientific investigation, and mystery,” Favretto says.

For more information about the Jackie Gleason Collection, please contact or call 305-284-3247. For questions about the event, or to RSVP, contact or call 305-284-4026.