The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) to open August 14th, 2016 with permament exhibition exploring the contributions of Italian Americans in multiethnic Southern California

Jul 02, 2016 633

With a permanent exhibit dedicated to the history and contributions of Italian Americans in multiethnic Southern California, the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles will celebrate its public opening on Sunday, AUGUST 14th, 2016 at 10 am. The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, part of El Pueblo of Los Angeles Historical Monument, the birthplace of the City of Los Angeles, will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm.

The public can visit the museum, which is located in the newly-restored Italian Hall, the oldest remaining structure from Los Angeles' Little Italy listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and experience a 5,000-square-foot journey into the largely overlooked history of Italians in Los Angeles, Southern California, and the nation. Admission is free.

"The history of Italians in Los Angeles, like that of the region itself, is rich and complex", says historian Marianna Gatto, IAMLA Executive Director and exhibition author, "By examining this part of our city's past we gain a deeper understanding of the region's multilayered fabric. The story of the region's Italians is inextricably linked to the history of the region itself."

The IAMLA's permanent exhibition consists of seven individual exhibitions arranged chronologically and thematically. Smart glass panels, measuring 10' x 12' each, present an overview of each exhibition using video projections featuring hundreds of rare and never-before-seen images and historical documents. "The video installation adds an emotional and dynamic aspect to the storytelling," says Gatto. The exhibitions in their entirety can be viewed on tablets, which are attached to the cases where museum's artifacts are displayed.

The IAMLA's permanent exhibition content is also presented online via Google Cultural Institute. "The Museum's walls don't present a limit anymore," explains Paul Pagnone, board president of the IAMLA, "in the year 2016, we are able to make our exhibit accessible to a global audience."

Between 1870 and 1920, more than fourteen million people left Italy in search of a better life; four million selected the United States as their new home. Italian settlement in Los Angeles predates this massive exodus and can be traced to 1827, prior to California's statehood, when the region was still part of Mexico. Since then, Italian Americans have played an integral role in the region's development.

"The Museum's opening is a dream come true for the Italian community in Los Angeles and Southern California", continues Pagnone, "The IAMLA offers a new way to interpret and understand our city and the unparalleled diversity that can be traced to its beginnings.

The IAMLA expects thousands of visitors in coming months, and prides itself in being an integral part of the city's cultural landscape, presenting a variety of public programming—including film screenings, lectures, performances, and temporary exhibits—providing visitors of all ages and origins a meaningful understanding of the rich history of Los Angeles and the United States.

The IAMLA also presents Taste of Italy, an annual event that takes place on October 1st, featuring dozens of the region's best Italian restaurants, world-class Italian wines, and live entertainment.

About the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) documents the history and continuing contributions of Italian Americans and Italians to Southern California and the nation. Featuring interactive exhibits and educational programming, the Italian American Museum provides visitors of all ages and origins a meaningful understanding of the complex, multi-cultural fabric of Los Angeles and the United States. The Historic Italian Hall Foundation is a 501 (c)3 charitable organization dedicated to supporting the Museum and its mission.


The IAMLA's permanent exhibition consists of seven individual sections that are arranged chronologically, thematically, and color-coded for easy navigation: Italy's Imprint on North America and the American West, Pioneers, Settlement, Italian Hall, Dago!, Italians in Hollywood, and Culture. The sections are accessible through tablets in the Museum and online via Google Cultural Exhibit. Each section includes artifacts that illustrate the time period or subject matter. Video projections provide an overview of each exhibition.

Pioneers - Through the histories of five Italian Southern California families, the IAMLA brings to life the struggles and successes of the region's early Italian immigrants, a unique chapter of the Italian American diaspora. The first Italians arrived in Southern California in the early 1800s, when the region was part of Mexico. Linguistic similarities and the Catholic religion led the first Italians to face less prejudice in Los Angeles than their contemporaries elsewhere in the country. As farmers, fishermen, and vintners, Italian immigrants, with the skills and traditions imported from their homeland, helped shape California as agricultural and maritime giant. Artifact highlights: Traditional dress, Piedmont, Italy, ca. 1870.

Settlement - Settlement analyzes the factors that motivated the massive Italian immigration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (in 1907, 285,000 people left Italy; in 1913, a record 872,598 people emigrated) and the pull factors that led Italians to settle in Southern California. Los Angeles' earliest "Little Italies" included the Plaza area and in San Pedro, Los Angeles' historic waterfront, as well as present-day Chinatown and Lincoln Heights. Little evidence of these historic enclaves remains. The exhibition also explores A.P. Giannini, the founder of Bank of Italy, which became Bank of America, and Prohibition's impact on the Italian American community. Artifact highlights: Immigrant inspection card, ledger from hotel located in Los Angeles' Little Italy, Bank of Italy piggy bank.

Italian Hall – The IAMLA is located in the Italian Hall, a building that symbolizes the Italian presence in Los Angeles. Built in 1908, the Italian Hall served as the community's focal point for decades. Italian immigrants visited the Hall in search of employment, housing, and advice. Weddings, dances, and cultural celebrations took place at the Italian Hall. Located at one of the few free speech zones in Los Angeles, in the early 1900s, the Italian Hall hosted revolutionaries and union organizers. The building's noteworthy visitors include Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magon and Emma Goldman. In 1953, during an era when hundreds of historic structures were being demolished, the State of California purchased the Italian Hall and several historic buildings in the area to create El Pueblo State Historic Park. The Italian community ceased using the building, and the building fell into severe disrepair. In the early 1990s, the Italian community launched a campaign to restore the Italian Hall. Approximately $1 million was raised to address the building's most pressing deferred maintenance. After many setbacks, the IAMLA's Foundation raised public and private funds to complete the restoration and develop exhibitions and programming. Images: 1917 footrace in front of the Italian Hall, 1919 banquet inside the Italian Hall.

Dago! The section illustrates the history of Italian discrimination in the United States. Like other minority groups, Italians faced prejudice and hostility in their struggle to achieve the American Dream. Derogatory terms, like guinea, WOP, and Dago were popular parts of the country's vocabulary. Eugenicists declared that Italians were a sub-human race, the "missing link" between humans and apes. Because of their darker complexions, Italians were often not considered "white." This was particularly dangerous in the American South, where Italians faced brutal violence, and in some areas, were semi-segregated. During World War II, while tens of thousands of Italian Americans served in the US army, many of their families were branded "enemy aliens." They were arrested, sent to internment camps, forced to leave their homes, surrender property, and abide by curfews and travel restrictions. Artifact highlights: Enemy alien registration card.

Italians in Hollywood - Italians in Hollywood reflects the complex relationship between the Italians and the media. Behind the camera, Italian immigrants played critical roles in Hollywood's development. On screen, however, their portrayal was and remains predominantly negative. Artifact highlights: Lady Gaga's custom-made Donatella Versace cape, Rudolph Valentino's typewriter

Culture - Southern California, a region of unparalleled diversity, is home to over 570,000 Italian Americans, the nation's fifth-largest Italian American population. This exhibition explores the contributions of Italian Americans to the region's richly-varied cultural landscape, and cultural expressions of family and faith, the arts and cuisine, innovation, industry, education, and justice. Among the individuals profiled in the exhibit are Simon Rodia, the creator of the Watts Towers, author John Fante, musician Frank Zappa, and Frances Cabrini, the first United States citizen to be canonized a saint. Artifact highlights: John Fante's pipe, 1905 baptismal gown.


- Google Cultural Institute. The IAMLA permanent exhibit content is available online through the Google Cultural Institute.

- Videos – Six documentary-style videos, projected on smart glass screens (12' X 10'), are essential components of the exhibit. Historical images and documents are mixed with colorful graphics, and informative text.

- Artifacts – World War II-era enemy alien registration cards, Lady Gaga's custom-made Donatella Versace cape, Rodolfo Valentino's typewriter, a 1903 ledger from a hotel located in Los Angeles' little Italy, a Prohibition-era bottle of medicinal whiskey and a relic used by Saint Cabrini, are a few examples of the artifacts that illustrate the Italian experience in Los Angeles.

- Historic Preservation – As part of the $3.5 million project, the IAMLA restored several features of the 108-year-old building, including the mosaic entry, restored by renowned Italian mosaic conservator Enzo Aiello, the building original sash windows, transom, and hardwood floors, and the ornate cornice, corbels, and inset panels on the façade.

- Electrolier - The Museum's electrolier, or chandelier, was custom made of hand-blown glass in the classic Italian Murano tradition by a contemporary Los Angeles-based Italian American artist, Jim Embrescia, and adorns the IAMLA's second floor landing. The 680-pound creation is inspired by the Italian diaspora. The metal frame that sustains the glass is shaped as an oblong boat, as a nod to the vessels on which millions of immigrants departed from Italy. The glass curls represent the many paths the immigrants took when they relocated to new and unknown lands.

Name: The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA)
Date: Open to public on August 14th, 2016.
Time: 10 am – 4 pm
Location: 644 North Main Street, Los Angeles 90012 Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am – 3 pm Closed on Mondays and the following holidays: Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, New Year Day, July 4th. Admission: Free – Donations encouraged. Web: Office: Tel. 213.485.8432 Directions: Take the Metro Red Line, Gold Line, or Purple Line to Union Station/Gateway Transit Center. Exit the station and walk across N. Alameda Street to El Pueblo Historical Monument. Continue west to Main Street, then walk North one block to Cesar Chavez. The IAMLA is located near the 101 and 110 freeway intersection. Parking: There are several parking options in the area. Lot 1 - 419 N. Main Street Lot 2 - 615 N. Main Street Lot 3 - 852 N. Alameda Street

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