State Archives opens new exhibit on Italian-American community

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Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea invites the public to come explore the Italian American story in Rhode Island at the new State Archives exhibition, “Andiamo! Italians Make Their Mark in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island has the highest population of Italian Americans per capita in the United States, according to the most recent American Community Survey estimate. The new exhibition at the State Archives showcases a variety of cultural artifacts and historical manuscripts to celebrate the culture and growth of the Italian American community in Rhode Island beginning in the late 19th century.

It also features incorporation papers from some of the state’s first Italian-owned businesses and organizations, census data on immigrants in Rhode Island at the turn of the 20th century, petitions for naturalization from Italians seeking legal U.S. citizenship, early examples of Italians making their voices heard in Rhode Island government and community groups, and telegrams from John O. Pastore, Rhode Island’s first Italian American governor and U.S. senator.

“Italian Americans are one of Rhode Island’s most prominent and influential communities,” Gorbea said. “They came to America with an incredible work ethic, and despite many challenges in the early days Italian Americans have shaped Rhode Island’s cultural and political landscape. Their story is a powerful reminder that immigration to a new place is full of complexity.”

“Andiamo! Italians Make Their Mark in Rhode Island” was made possible through collaboration with several community partners who loaned artifacts and documents, including the Barrington Preservation Society, Forum Lodge #391 of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, and the Italo American Club. Items were also generously loaned by State Archives team members.

The exhibition opened on June 20 and runs through September 2019. The Rhode Island State Archives are free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 337 Westminster St. in Providence. Two-hour validated parking is available during business hours at Down City Parking adjacent to the State Archives building at the corner of Westminster and Snow streets.

The Rhode Island State Archives are home to more than 10 million records dating back to 1638. Rhode Island is one of the only states in the country that houses its State Archives in a commercially-leased office space. Gorbea is working to build a new State Archives and History Center to meet standards set by the National Archives and Records Administration, while ensuring that the public has access to Rhode Island’s historic collections.

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