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Centennial Exhibit Celebrates Red Cross History

A retrospective on the 100-year history of the Red Cross in South Florida brings to life the Red Cross’ humanitarian mission from its founding in 1917 to support the war effort to Hurricane Irma relief in 2017. The exhibit featuring historical artifacts, images and uniforms is on display at the Coral Gables Museum until May 27.

The exhibit gives visitors a great history lesson on the founding of the American Red Cross in the U.S. by Clara Barton, and the remarkable South Florida women who decided that Miami needed its own chapter and galvanized the community to make it happen.

Harriet Parsons James, a wealthy Miami socialite, invited a group of prominent Miamians to her Coconut Grove estate to establish a local chapter. In Overtown, Florence “Laura” Gaskins established a Junior Red Cross group, known as the “Black Cross," to rally the African-American community.

The exhibit guides visitors through the next 100 years -- during war time and times of peace, population booms and natural disasters, through assistance and training programs, showing how the Red Cross has faithfully served the community making it a safer place to live, work and play.

Fittingly, the exhibit ends with a look at the Red Cross response to Hurricane Irma in 2017. Florida was ground zero for the epic storm and all five chapters of the South Florida Region mobilized quickly to prepare for and respond to the disaster. On display are a cot and items that individuals receive when they arrive at a Red Cross shelter.

Images show disaster relief volunteers from the affected communities and all over the country rolling up their sleeves to help: staffing shelters, delivering hot meals and water, distributing supplies, providing health and mental health services and spiritual care, and above all -- bringing hope.

In addition to the exhibit, the Coral Gables Museum will host a members-only luncheon on Friday, April 27 where Susan Robbins Watson, Archivist and Manager of the Historical Programs and Collections of the American Red Cross, will give a talk on the history of the Red Cross and its legacy in South Florida.

Watson is responsible for administering public programming, responding to inquiries, developing exhibits and overseeing the care and conservation of the historical collections of the Red Cross, which include artwork, artifacts, audiovisual materials, textual records and photographs.

Visit Coral Gables Museum for admission information, museum hours, and how to become a member.