The exhibition follows the various steps of the emigrant’s path. First of all, great importance is given to the living conditions of those who were leaving: Italy at the time of the “great emigration” was mostly a rural country and the images selected highlight the poor everyday living and working conditions of farmers. Arrangements for departure and for the journey are seen through the Foundation’s rare and unique documents - including passports, medical certificates, emigrant’s guides, holy images and snapshots of emigrants in ports, boarding the Atlantic steamers or during the crossing. The topic of the journey is surely one of the most fascinating and the photographic murals help visitors identify with the emigrants’ adventure. Even if they emigrated all over the world, the classic emblem of hope and of another life with new opportunities is the Statue of Liberty in New York, of which the Foundation has many postcards. The search for a job was certainly the main reason why millions of Italians emigrated. This is why great importance is given by the Museum to the different types of jobs - from image-makers (itinerant craftsmen who produced plaster statuettes) to wetnurses, from miners to farmers, from traders to entrepreneurs - always trying to highlight the contribution given by our fellow countrymen to the development of the host country in the various walks of life. The various types of lodgings - the tenements in New York, the huts in the Argentinian pampa, the house with a garden in the Chicago suburbs, the newly-founded villages in Brazil - all highlight the progressive improvement in social and financial status over decades of history. The bond with the homeland, and most of all with family and relatives who stayed in Italy, is surely one of the most touching topics and is covered in some of the Museum’s oldest documents and pictures - in many cases on show for the first time.
The objective is to give visitors the cue to reflect upon topics concerning emigration, in terms of figures - departures, returns, remittances - but also through social, collective and individual stories. The Museum also wants to portray the complexity of the phenomenon, not only presenting the range of different places, periods and historical situations involved, but also exploring the psychological themes such as “diversity”, “identity”, “standardisation” and “rejection” which are part and parcel of the new-found overall identity of the “Italian abroad”, a blend of memory and modernity.
And last but not least, the Museum aims at conveying the topical interest of the message linked with emigration, both as a history lesson to encourage a welcoming and tolerant frame of mind, and for understanding the opportunity given by migration to increase our human experience through dialogue with different cultures.
Photo panels and showcases displaying original documents and objects with modern and period images are further enhanced with historical videos and scenes from recent films, interviews with the protagonists of emigration and multimedia interactive situations where visitors can carry out a computer search.
All the pictures of the documents found in the guide are taken from the Foundation’s Archive.