Saving Bites of History for The Future – The Italian American Museum
Dedicated to maintain and preserve the rich history of Italian immigrants, the Italian American Museum was once located in the former “Banca Stabile”, is a building closely tied to the past of Little Italy’s community. Having outgrown the old building of “Banca Stabile”, the Italian American Museum is now in the process of moving into its new home. The museum, who purchased the “Banca Stabile” building in 2008, sold it to the Developers Oved Group and Nexus Building Development Group.
Instead, they will erect in its place a 12-story apartment building and offer the museum a rent-free space in perpetuity. The levelling of the building at the corner of Mulberry and Grand Street has started in January. Before that, the museum had removed the banks’ vault, teller cases, light fixtures and the deposit table, and placed the artefacts in storage. Expected to be erected by spring 2020, the new building will offer the museum much-needed room for its exhibitions. 6000-square-foot in the basement of the new building will be committed for the use of the museum.
That is five times larger than the space in the old building. In a 50-seat auditorium, the museum will be able to present lectures, dance recitals and film screenings. The museum will also get a separate entrance with a 20-feet tall atrium. Artefacts of the old building will be integrated into the interior of the new museum. The goal of the museum is to become a nexus for the community of Little Italy, just like the “Banca Stabile” was in the past, and keep the good relations with the businesses which were built over the last years
The museum was established on June 12, 2001. After an exceptionally successful exhibition about the struggle and achievements of Italian-Americans, held at the prestigious New York Historical Society from 1999-2000, the idea for a museum solely dedicated to maintaining the history of Italian immigrants was born. This was the first exhibition ever to showcase Italian American history at a major cultural institution. To house the museum, the “Banca Stabile” building was the perfect fit. Once the focal point of little Italy, this Bank provided services for Italian immigrants and contact to the relatives at Italy. In addition to its financial services, immigrants could send telegraphs to Italy, book steamship travels from and to Italy and much more. The bank became kind of a community service centre for the immigrants of little Italy.
The Italian American Museum is not only dedicated to the exhibition of memorabilia, documents, photographs and other objects. Its mission is to highlight the myriad of contributions Italian Americans made to the American society, to tell their personal stories which often go unsung and share them with future generations. Because, in order for future generations of Italian Americans to successfully contribute and partake in society, it is necessary to present them with their institutions which are dedicated to the preservation of their heritage.