Museum in Naples?
I wandered down to the old Immacolatella building at the port today (photo, left). I was looking for one of those helpful little signs that you often find where people are working—the ones that say, "Excuse the inconvenience. We are sitting on our thumbs —uh—working for you. Yes, your very own grandchildren's grandchildren will be able to enjoy this fine new bus stop." I wanted anything at all to indicate that the Immacolatella, the quaint old customs station at the port, is on its way to becoming a museum dedicated to the very important and fascinating topic of emigration from Naples. Unfortunately, the place was locked up tighter than a drum —no workers, nothing at all to show anything, except that the building is marked by a plaque to honor the 91 sailors, officers, and dock workers killed in a devastating air raid that sank the cruiser Muzio Attendolo in port, in December, 1942. That is as it should be, yet the regional government of Campania and city government of Naples have, for many months, been touting the structure as the site of a new Museo dell'Emigrazione.
as countries such as the United States have opened
facilities (the US has one on Ellis Island) to celebrate
the arrival of immigrant nation builders, Italy is now in
the midst of opening at least a few museums dedicated to
the sad fact that so many people simply had to leave,
driven away mostly by economics. The great waves of
Neapolitans and southern Italians, in general, who left
their homes from 1880-1920 amount, by some counts, to 15
million (and 27 million if you spread the time-frame a bit
and include all of Italy).
in Italy, there is now such a museum in Gualdo Tadino,
near Perugia in Umbria. It claims to be the first Regional Museum of
Emigration in Italy.
Calabria, "La Nave della Sila"
has opened. "Sila" designates an area of Calabria,
(approximately the area around Cosenza)
parts of which are still depleted from loss of
population due to emigration—there are "ghost towns" in Calabria.
"Nave" means ship. Thus, the "Nave della Sila" museum proclaims
the area to have been a great vessel for millions of
people—who left. Both museums have photographic
exhibits, audio-visual displays and sponsor lectures.
They are first-class facilities for students and
anyone else seeking to get a handle on the phenomenon.
round-table discussions in Naples over the course of
the last 18 months have envisioned the Immacolatella as
just such a facility. The site is the perfect symbol
of emigration. The people left from here. (The mammoth
main passenger terminal at the port wasn't built until
1936). The museum—according to projections—will have a
"Wall of Memories," a section on "The Trip," and a few
other displays. It will also include an international
research center. The complete plan is grandiose and
includes the restoration of the nearby church of Santa Maria di Portosalvo
(Safe Haven), the sorely dilapidated building that
used to be the traditional house of worship for
Neapolitan seafarers. It
is now about 150 yards inland, but was once at water's
edge before urban rebuilders filled
in the small crescent-shaped port that had the church
and the Immacolatella at opposite points of the
crescent, so to speak, facing each other across the
water. That will take some doing. The last I have read
on this is that they are still at the stage of
discussions to "create synergy among the city
government, the Naples Port Authority and the Ministry
of Culture." Uh-oh. I am
allergic to terms such as "Creating synergy"; if you
are not, I salute your immune system. It all
sounds distressingly long-term, but if there is one
place in Italy that should have such a museum, it's
[Also see "Immigration &
portal for architecture and urban planning
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