Cruise Ship History: Laurence Miller donates steamship memorabilia to Miami’s Wolfsonian-FIU Museum


This is a luggage label for Cunard White Star Cruises dating back to 1949. The label is part of the Laurence Miller Collection of ocean liner and cruise ship materials at The Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami Beach. 

Posted on Fri, Dec. 26, 2008
Laurence Miller donates memorabilia to Wolfsonian

A former university official donated his extensive collection of vintage ocean liner and cruise ship memorabilia — such as menus, stationery and deck plans — to the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum earlier this month.  Laurence Miller, former executive director of Florida International University’s libraries, started amassing his collection, which also includes postcards and brochures, in the 1950s.

Those 15,000 to 20,000 items, which span between the years 1950 and 2000, now complement the museum’s own collection of cruise ship memorabilia from the 1930s and 1940s.

”I’m delighted to have found the perfect home for my collection,” said Miller in a statement. The Kendall resident, who travels extensively on cruises and writes about the cruise-line industry, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Museum officials said he was likely — where else? — on a holiday cruise.

”The collection and the books that support it provide a rather complete description of the modern cruise industry’s history and development,” said Miller, who served as head of FIU’s libraries from 1981 to 2005.

The materials show the industry’s shift from catering exclusively to wealthy passengers to a wide range of tourists.

Miller began collecting items in the 1950s as a teen. He would write to the chief stewards of ocean liners and ask them to send him menus.

Francis Luca, the Wolfsonian’s librarian, said the donation is valuable because Miller preserved items that otherwise would have been lost.

”This is all unusual in a certain sense because collections like this don’t exist,” said Luca, who is cataloging the items in the museum’s database. “Cruise lines don’t keep materials like this.”

Among the notable items, Luca pointed to deck plans of international cruise ships such as Pinard.

”Some of these plans are larger than your average poster. They show the floor plans of cabins, so people can see where the windows and the toilets are,” he said.

Luca said it would take some time to sort and classify each item in the collection. In the future, the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum intends to have an exhibit to show the items.

”We’re thrilled to have this collection,” Luca said.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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