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Art Museum of WVU to host lecture on 1966 Florence Flood

The Art Museum of West Virginia University will host 1966 Florence Flood eyewitnesses David G. Wilkins and Ann Thomas Wilkins at 12 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in the Grand Hall of the Museum Education Center on WVU’s Evansdale Campus, adjacent to the Art Museum.

On November 4, 1966, the worst flood in more than 400 years devastated one of the world's cultural centers, Florence, Italy. 101 lives were lost as the Arno River burst over its banks and flooded the great Renaissance city, submerging churches, museums, homes and businesses in more than 20 feet of roaring water, mud and debris. 

The damage to works of art and rare books was catastrophic, and as the laborious job of recovery began, many artists and organizations from around the world began to help. But even as the waters were receding, a group of young people who were living and studying in Florence tirelessly volunteered their time and efforts to assist in rescuing rare books and art which were in extreme danger.  These volunteers were nicknamed Florence's "Mud Angels."

David G. Wilkins and Ann Thomas Wilkins were among these "Mud Angels."  They are known in West Virginia as the co-authors of the critically-acclaimed WVU Press book on Cass Gilbert's West Virginia State Capitol.  Retired from their positions in the Art History Department at the University of Pittsburgh (David) and the Classics Department at Duquesne University (Ann), they continue to teach a course regularly at the Duquesne campus in Rome, Italy. In this presentation, they will discuss their impressions of the disaster, show photos of the devastation, and recount their experiences drying books and distributing aid to the Florentines after the flood.   

The public is invited to attend this free presentation.  Funding for the lecture is provided by contributors to the Museum Director’s Fund.