The Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Project

The Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Project has been recording the history of the City of Miami Beach by recording the memories and stories of the people who grew up here and have been a part of its development. These recollections are available for online research and have been combined and edited to create museum installations and educational films. Sharing the legacy of the City’s past expands our appreciation and understanding of this unique beach community.

The Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Project is funded by the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority

Stories of the American Riviera

The title of this video comes from a comment by Beach developer Tony Goldman upon first seeing Miami Beach — “I have seen the American Riviera.” The film tells the history of Miami Beach through the recollections of some of its residents. The Miami Beach Visual Memoirs project is a partnership of the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) and Close-Up Productions, funded by the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority.

The Miami Brand — What’s the Secret of the Magic

We’ve wondered for a while about the confluence of events and people that has made Miami (Beach) the go to tourist destination. From the Miami Beach Visual Memoirs archive comes this 5 minute capsule view from Bruce Turkel — an expert on branding — on what has made this area a global hot spot. He also clarifies why we put the parentheses around “Beach.”

Miami Beach Visual Memoirs

This video outlines the scope and purpose of the Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Project. It shows how oral histories can be used to give an understanding and scope to history, here focused on the change and development that occurred on an Atlantic barrier island known as Miami Beach.

The Story of Rey Mambo

This educational video is intended for middle school students. It focuses on Marvin Baumel who, as a Latin band leader in the 1950s and 60s, was known as “Rey” Mambo. He worked in the clubs and hotels of Miami Beach. His story is one of coming of age, going to war and returning to follow his love — Latin Music. All the educational materials have accompanying teacher guides.

“Outta the Ballpark”: Impact of the 60s Cuban Influx

The experience of growing up on Miami Beach differed depending on an individual’s experience in school. Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books and Books, grew up on the Beach in the 1960s. For him, the influx of Cubans fleeing Casto changed the dynamic of his school years in unique ways. In the background is a mid-century postcard photo of Central Beach Elementary School.

This excerpt is from an extended interview shot in July 2012.

Jo Ann Bass — Growing Up on the Second Floor of Joe’s

From the hospital she went right to an apartment above Joeʼs Stone Crab, founded by her grandfather in 1913. Originally a fish and chip stand, Joe’s has become a Miami Beach icon. Her interview ranges from her birth, to working at Joe’s at age 13, to her father’s gambling habit, to the celebrities who showed up at the restaurant. It is Miami Beach history seen from the perspective of one location — Joe’s.


Barbara Baer Capitman’s vision and persistence helped to turn a rundown area of Miami Beach into the vibrant Art Deco historic district. Arriving on Miami Beach in 1973, Barbara was struck by the neglect of what she recognized as an artistic treasure — the hundreds of buildings constructed in the Moderne style following the disastrous 1926 hurricane that pushed a wall of water across the barrier island that is Miami Beach. This film uses interviews with people who worked with Barbara and video from a German Television documentary filmed the year before her death in 1990 to tell the story of how Barbara Capitman was able to save large portions of Miami Beach’s unique Art Deco district.

“It was paradise and we didn’t even know it.”

The history of Miami Beach as told by those who lived it.