Samuel Webster

May 7, 2014 Photography: Italian American Museum New York City Posted In: Photography

155 Mulberry Street, New York, NY

After collaboration¬†with the Italian National Archive of Diaries in Pieve Santo Stefano, Arezzo, it was a natural thing to seek out the Italian American Museum while I was in NYC in March. On a lazy Sunday, I took a new friend down there and we saw a quick presentation, and then did the rounds on our own (during which I took the following photos). There are some great stories amongst the artefacts, and I found myself wanting to get involved with the museum, to help them really flesh out the treasures they have into a storytelling experience for the visitors… But you cannot do everything, can you?

Instead, I spent the entire walk home retelling the artefacts the way I would have told the stories, until my friend turned to me and said ‘Do you consider yourself Italian?’

Of course I don’t (not in any sense beyond being an ‘honorary local’ in Tuscany) and I actually wondered if she thought I was overstepping my boundaries and adopting a culture that was not my own, but she quickly told me that I seemed so dedicated to telling these stories as if they were my own, that it made her want to go and see the artefacts again in a new light.

I suppose my work in Italy has led me to consider history and culture some more, but I’d also like to think I’ve always been somewhat dedicated to finding the story. I wish the Italian American Museum were more dedicated to the stories within its exhibit and less to exhibiting a lot of artefacts at once, but like many small museums and cultural organisations, they are under budget constraints and run with the help of volunteers.

If you do find yourself in New York, take the time to go and visit this small collection, and maybe leave an extra moment or two to really appreciate the depth of story in this humble museum.

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The outside of the Italian American Museum, where you can still read the family name 'Stabile' from when the premises with a family owned Italian bank.

The outside of the Italian American Museum, where you can still read the family name ‘Stabile’ from when the premises with a family owned Italian bank.

The Italian American Museum is inside the premises of the Stabile Bank, an old family run institution that serviced local Italian migrants, beginning with their financial requirements."

The Italian American Museum is inside the premises of the Stabile Bank, an old family run institution that serviced local Italian migrants, beginning with their financial requirements.”

Inside the old Stabile vault.

Inside the old Stabile vault.

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This piece wasn

This piece wasn

This piece was particularly interesting, an extortion note to an Italian family...  Translated into English it reads: "Dirty bastard. Goddamn pig. We will burn the face of your daughter. Goddamn pig. You will find yourself with a guilty conscience you dog. You must bring the money otherwise we will make you weep bitter tears and you will be responsible for the destruction of your family. Bastard. First you will cry for your daughter and look that we can have her in our hands whenever we want. Before long, we will have her hostage and when your family will see her certainly you will mourn for her. Our vendetta is about to begin." Pretty intense stuff.

This piece was particularly interesting, an extortion note to an Italian family… Translated into English it reads: “Dirty bastard. Goddamn pig. We will burn the face of your daughter. Goddamn pig. You will find yourself with a guilty conscience you dog. You must bring the money otherwise we will make you weep bitter tears and you will be responsible for the destruction of your family. Bastard. First you will cry for your daughter and look that we can have her in our hands whenever we want. Before long, we will have her hostage and when your family will see her certainly you will mourn for her. Our vendetta is about to begin.” Pretty intense stuff.

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