Archive for the ‘Museum’ category

Marconi Maritime Center

October 20, 2010


The Marconi Maritime Center in Chatham, Cape Cod

Thr Maritime Center is what I wrote of in a previous post. It is in Chatham, MA, on Cape Cod and well worth a visit. Marconi chose Chatham as a site for one of his 10 wireless radio ststions planned to link America with Europe and Japan. It was built in 1914 and converted to maritime operations. It served mariners the world over until 1997. The buildings are now restored very well and unchanged in their original settings.

Guglielmo Marconi

Built by Marconi in 1914, it became the “world’s greatest coastal station ” for ship to shore communications during WWII. Visit the Walter Cronkite video of the center and its glory.

The web site is


Luigi Del Bianco

August 7, 2010
A permanent exhibit showcasing Luigi Del Bianco’s work as Chief Carver on Mount Rushmore is now on display at the Italian American Museum on 155 Mulberry St in Little Italy, New York.

Del Bianco at work...courtesy of web site noted

It was Gutzon Borglum, the designer of the memorial, who hired Del Bianco in 1933 to be Chief Carver and bring “refinements of expression” to the four faces. Luigi fulfilled that role by carving the fine features of the presidents and bringing them to life.  “Bianco” also saved the face of Jefferson by repairing a dangerous crack in his lip; a job Borglum would entrust to no one else. In his own words, Gutzon wrote this about Luigi Del Bianco: “He is worth any three men in America for this type of work”.
Unfortunately, most of the major publications about Mount Rushmore don’t even mention Luigi Del Bianco. Because of this oversight, Luigi’s son Caesar and his grandson Lou have made it a mission over the years to tell a story that needs to be told: that an Italian immigrant came to America to help bring to life our nation’s greatest memorial.
Dr. Joseph Scelsa of the Italian American Museum recognized this need as well. As a result, a display with original photographs and artwork of the gifted stone carver is now available to the public.

Be sure to honor Luigi’s memory by visiting the web site

Italian American Museum, Mulberry Street, NYC

July 10, 2010

Diane and I visited this wonderful museum. This article is reprinted in part with the permission of  The Museum. With enthusiasm, we recommend a visit.

JUNE 16, 2010
A Museum of Interaction

Dr. Joseph Scelsa at the Italian American Museum in Little Italy. His almost continuous conversation with visitors makes the museum interactive.

Dr Joseph Scelsa

Until I visited the Italian American Museum last week, I was unaware that Italians, among them the great Metropolitan Opera singer Ezio Pinza, were sent to U.S. detention camps during World War II, though in smaller numbers than Japanese-Americans. “He was at Ellis Island,” Dr. Joseph Scelsa, the museum’s founder and a professor emeritus at Queens College, said as he pointed out one of the pink cards issued to detainees. “They had to carry them like identity cards. [Mayor] La Guardia was able to get him out after several weeks.”
The museum is housed in a three-story building at the corner of Mulberry and Grand that was once the Banca Stabile, an institution that opened in 1885 and provided not only traditional banking services but also arranged steamship passage for immigrants and found them housing and even jobs once they arrived. The museum opened at its current location in 2008. 

There’s a frankly hodge-podge cast to the exhibits—organ-grinder carts, hand-carved puppets, Frank Serpico’s service revolver and a framed basketball jersey from the Knicks’ Danilo Gallinari compete for space and attention with historical artifacts such as the $30 steamship ticket that brought a relative of movie director Francis Ford Coppola to the U.S. in 1903 and a “Black Hand” letter—an extortion note—sent to one of Dr. Scelsa’s relatives in 1917.

“We will burn the face of your daughter,” it reads in part, and for good measure it includes rudimentary drawings of skulls with daggers through them.

Michael Rubinstein Photo of a museum photo

“Probably stilettos,” Dr. Scelsa observed. “They were small gangs that existed at the turn of the century and used the cover of anonymity of the Black Hand. You’d be surprised how many people visit the museum and tell me similar stories.”
While a lot of money would undoubtedly go a long way toward bringing the Italian American Museum up to speed—Dr. Scelsa admitted that the recession threw the museum’s fund-raising efforts a curve ball, and 7,000 items remain in storage—there’s one arena where this quaint street-side institution may have more established institutions such as MoMA, the Met, and the Whitney beat hands-down: in terms of the holy grail of current museum design, interactivity. I don’t mean talking exhibitions, video monitors or touch-screen computer displays (there’s none of that), but in the almost continuous conversation between Dr. Scelsa and visitors to the museum who meander inside in ones and twos and share stories of their own families. I’d go so far as to say that the museum’s main achievement thus far is to have created a space and an opportunity for Italian-Americans, like other established ethnic groups, to reminisce and honor their increasingly remote immigrant origins.
Dr. Scelsa doesn’t deny the darker and more cinematically explored side of Italian-American immigrant culture. After all, the infamous Ravenite Social Club, the former headquarters of the Gambino crime family, is just up the street. “I’m not sure what it’s become,” he said of the club. “I don’t think you’re going to find anything like that around here anymore. Giuliani did a good job making sure those days were over.”
But just in case tourists, who have replaced Little Italy’s dwindling Italian-American population, continue to labor under the misapprehension that they may still witness a mob hit if their timing’s right, Dr. Scelsa politely asked the poster shop next door to remove the “Scarface” and “Godfather II” posters from its sidewalk display. (It probably didn’t hurt that the museum holds the lease on the poster shop.) Roy Baxter, the shop’s owner, said he had no problem abiding by the museum’s request as he affectionately regarded a black-and-white glossy of John Gotti. Long gone, one suspects the Dapper Don still draws tourists to the neighborhood—and to the Italian American Museum. “He’s too good-looking to be outside,” Mr. Baxter said.

This message was sent from Italian American Museum to

Photos courtesy of Michael Rubinstein