A History Of Museo Italiano And The Italian Historical Society

A History Of Museo Italiano And The Italian Historical Society
Situated in a suburb of Melbourne, Museo Italiano and the Italian Historical Society share a comprehensive collection, which focuses on Victoria’s Italian community and the story of immigration in Australia. Located at CoAsIt, in Carlton, Museo Italiano showcases both permanent and temporary exhibitions, which concentrate on the hardships faced by Italian immigrants, as well as the history and heritage of Carlton.

The museum’s permanent collection includes Departures, which takes you on the journey of Italian migrants through a multimedia presentation and explores the adventure and anticipation of the voyage many took in hopes of reaching Australia. Making Lives is a ten minute film which depicts the early days of settlement and the community created in Carlton. Settlement allows the visitors to view objects and artefacts from the migration period, which played an important role in creating a sense of home in Melbourne. Interactions is an exploration of the role in which food, language, performance, and sport played in the interaction between Italians and Australians. Artefacts in this collection include one of the first espresso machines imported into Melbourne and a film clip of Joe Dolce’s song, ‘Shaddap you face.’ Lastly, Identity is a collection of 16 documentaries commissioned for Museo Italiano investigating the ongoing connection Italians have with their homeland. Interviewed Italians include football player Andrew Carrazzo, songwriter Kavisha Mazzella, filmmaker Santo Cilauro, and café owner Sam Greco.

Lygon St, Carlton, Victoria, Australia © Mat Connolley/WikiCommons

Museo Italiano has also hosted temporary exhibitions. Last year’s Braving Bonegilla: A photographic journey in the Italian migrant experience was on show at the museum and told the story of the Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre, which operated between 1947 and 1971. Over that time the centre housed 300,000 displaced Europeans. The collection featured photographs of daily life at the centre, and depicted men learning English alongside photographs of weddings, funerals, and the Bonegilla riots of 1952.

Different Passports displayed © Lim Sue Roe

CoAsIt is also home to the Italian Historical Society, which collects, preserves, interprets, and promotes the history of Italians in Australia. The society holds a collection of photos, letters, official document and records, artefacts, and newspaper excerpts relating to Italian migration and settlement, which have been donated by migrants and their descendants. The collection is available to scholars, writers and the community by appointment. The microfilm diplomatic archive holds around ‘8,000 records of correspondence and reports between Italian Consular representatives in Australia and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome from 1856 to 1947.’ There is a collection of documents including everything from passports, travel tickets, national service records, postcards, and transcribed oral histories. CoAsIt also houses a library, which boasts 3,500 volumes, including rare books and periodicals. Lastly, the Italian Historical Society publishes a bi-annual journal full of academic papers and community contributions.

Italians and their families are encouraged to visit CoAsIt, as they might discover a piece of family history from the past.