The ethnic origins of many Los Angeles citizens is well documented in a number of museums located adjacent to Union Station and Olivera Street. They are the Japanese-American Museum, Chinese-American Museum, the Latin Community Museum and, newly opened, the Italian American Museum.
Over the years we have written about the first three so now it was time to visit the IAMLA located on North Main Street. It held its opening early in 2017 and is located in historic Italian Hall. This building was built in 1908 in what was then the heart of the Italian community. Over the years freeway construction erased all of the community except for the Hall and a few other buildings.. Now as oldest remaining structure,of the once vibrant community, it is listed on the National Register of Historic places.
Upon arrival at the Museum we were met by Trent E. Sneed of the History & Events Division, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority. After introductions he personally led us on a tour of the Museum which includes cultural and educational exhibitions, film screenings and classes. Currently there was a special exhibit on Sicily which we found of much interest since we described to Trent that my mother was born in Tribia, Sicily and arrived in San Francisco with her mother at the age of three. Featured in the Sicilian exhibit is a history of the Island that dates back to 1000 BC as well as a most ornate Italian Carretti Cart on loan from a Sicily museum.
The regular exhibits start with the Italian imprint on the North American West with showing of pioneers and early settlements. Then an exhibit detailing the discrimination faced by the Italian immigrants and listing the many insulting terms describing the immigrants who was all for the most part hard working and eager to fit into American ways and culture.
Another shows the influence the Italians had on entertainment and Hollywood from its earliest days while another exhibit tell the story of Amadeo Giannini who founded the Bank of Italy that later became the Bank of America.
That early Italian limmigrants were also in the wine business from the early 1800s. One Giovanni Leandri, originally from Sardinia, began making wine from the Mission grape in 1820. In those early years many of the vineyards were clustered around what is now Olivera Street. Best known is the the San Antonio Winery which , with an Italian legacy, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary as the oldest operating winery in Los Angeles.
We thought the Italian American Museum a very good addition to the multi ethnic mix that is Los Angeles and location of Italian Hall adds to the many visitor attractions of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles area.
The Italian American Museum offers free admission and is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Address is 644 North Main Street in Los Angeles at the corner of Cesar Chavez. Telephone 213 485-8432, web www.iamla.org.
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