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. The 2016 donation to Miami Dade College and the University of Miami enabled the creation of Kislak Centers and galleries at both schools.
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.
Culture and Change in the Early Americas
The Kislak Center's inaugural exhibition, Culture and Change in the Early Americas, presented a multidimensional view of the history of the Western Hemisphere, beginning with early Native American cultures and extending to modern times. Through the lens of history, it outlined the process of cultural change and adaptation that continues to the present day. The exhibition may be viewed as a virtual tour.