On Wednesday 2nd December, a new exhibition opened at the National Records of Scotland putting on display a hitherto hidden archive about the Italian community in Scotland.
The exhibition’s highlight is a unique census of Scots Italians in the 1930s, thought to be the only set of its kind and whose returns have been painstakingly restored by the conservation department of National Records of Scotland and digitally imaged for future public access. Ordered by Mussolini’s 1933-1940 government, the Censimento details 1,400 households and reveals a picture of specialist shopkeepers and skilled craftspeople living and working across Scotland who maintained strong connections to Italy.
These connections were embodied at a reception held at Stockbridge Church the same evening to celebrate the exhibition’s opening. There, numbers of the Scots Italian community, including three generations of the weel kent Crolla family, gathered to enjoy an evening of generous Italian hospitality and culture.
The reception, arranged by the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh, had as its MC Ronnie Convery, Director of Communications at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow. Speeches were made by Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian Ambassador, Carlo Perrotta, Italian Consul General for Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as by two visitors from the Lazio region, Silvio Mancini, Mayor of Atina, and Marco Scappaticci, Mayor of Picinisco, who presented plaques to Fiona Hyslop our Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs.
Following these formalities, and in true Italian style of running a little (!) late, a selection of music from Mozart, Schubert, Ysaye, Gorli and Debussy was provided in virtuoso style by pianist Maria Grazia Bellocchio and violinist Myriam Dal Don. After this treat, the company mingled and enjoyed fine Italian catering by producers from Valcomino with support of Edinburgh’s Divino Enoteca.
Family Portrait: The Scots Italians 1890-1940 is the culmination of a collaborative project between the Italian Government and National Records of Scotland to conserve the special registers for public access and was created in partnership with the Consulate General of Italy in Scotland.
The free exhibition teams newly-restored documents with personal keepsakes loaned by Scots Italian families in Scotland, and literally puts the Scots Italians of the 1930s on the map through specially created graphics produced by the National Library of Scotland. Historical photographs from the era are complemented by a documentary project featuring contemporary Scots Italians and the landscape of Scotland by Riccardo Venturi and Lorenzo Colantoni who commented, “Travelling from the crowd of the Fringe, to the absolute silence of Orkney, and then back through the Highlands and the West Coast, we have found an incredible variety of stories, with such a deep and constant connection with Italy and the Italian culture that most people would not expect. …”
a href="/venue/generalregisterhouse">General Register House 3 December 2015 until 29 January 2016 (closed 25th & 28th December, 1st & 4th January) Monday – Friday, 9.00 – 4.30