Kislak Center

    Please note that the Museum of Art and Design and MDC Special Collections, including the Kislak Center, are currently closed while the Freedom Tower undergoes renovations.

    Kislak Center

    The Kislak Center at the Freedom Tower opened to the public in 2018. Made possible by a generous donation by the Jay I. Kislak Foundation, the Kislak Center includes some of the most significant original source materials related to the history of the early Americas.

    The gallery showcases a number of extraordinary objects, including books, maps, manuscripts, Pre-Columbian artifacts, and other historical materials that offer perspectives on the extraordinary civilizations that shaped the modern world. A permanent 2,600-square-foot exhibition space on the first floor of the Freedom Tower, the gallery realizes the vision of Jay I. Kislak (1922–2018) to establish a program in Miami devoted to the history and cultures of the early Americas. Kislak, a real estate entrepreneur and mortgage banker, came to the Miami area in 1952. Acquiring objects over the course of many years, he assembled what today is recognized as one of the most important collections of its kind in the world.

    Kislak made the collection available to both scholars and the community through the Jay I. Kislak Foundation and gallery in Miami Lakes that opened in 1985. In 2004, the foundation donated more than 3,000 important items to be permanently exhibited at the historic Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. A 2010 gift to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, enabled the renovation of the Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, which has been named in his honor. A 2016 donation to Miami Dade College and the University of Miami enabled the creation of Kislak Centers and galleries at both schools.

    The Kislak Foundation made further gifts of Pre-Hispanic objects, maps, books, and documents to Miami Dade College in 2018, 2020, and 2022. The collection at MDC now numbers some 214 items and ranges from ancient artifacts of the earliest civilizations in the Americas to documents that evidence the European discovery, exploration, and conquest of the “New World.”

    In recognition of his efforts to preserve cultural heritage, Kislak was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the U.S. State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee from 2003 through 2008 and, in 2013, received the Encomienda of the Order of Merit Civil from the King of Spain, among other awards and appointments.

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