Sitting on famed Mulberry Street in New York City's Little Italy, a time capsule of Italian American history still stands. A petite museum with a big heart, the Italian American Museum opened in 2001 and dedicates its exhibits to the struggles and achievements of New York's Italian American community. The museum collects memorabilia, oral histories, and important artifacts that preserve the voice of this immigrant population.
Founder and president, Dr. Joseph Scelsa says that the museum gives "context" to the neighborhood beyond the restaurants and cafes. Dr. Scelsa founded the museum personally and is often on hand to answer questions and highlight his favorite piece of the collection: a three-foot marionette.
The collection is permanently housed in the former Banca Stabile, an appropriate location. In the late 19th Century, the bank was an unofficial community center for new Italian immigrants, offering services that helped them remain connected to the old country while adjusting to the new. Visitors are welcome to view the original vault as well as documents and teller desks. Jewelry, telegraphs, and pushcarts from the turn of the 20th Century provide compelling embellishments to the experience.
The best part of the museum is its preservation of and dedication to immigrant history during the early 1900's. Walking in, visitors can view the wrought-iron bars that donned the teller's desks and the yellowed ledgers that calculate amounts loaned and returned. From the wedding gown to the faded pictures, visitors will have a sensory experience of Italian American life in this iconic neighborhood, famed not only for cannolis but culture.