ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In 1989, President George H.W. Bush officially declared the month of October Italian Heritage Month to celebrate the achievements and contributions people of Italian descent have made to the United States. People of Italian descent have been finding many ways to celebrate their heritage, from cooking authentic dishes and hosting gatherings to participating in festivals and parades.
Professor Philip DiNovo, the Founder and President of the American Italian Heritage Association, says remembering one’s heritage is vital. “Heritage is an important part of your life. You can’t discard that just because you live here.”
The association was established in Utica in 1979 to record and preserve Italian heritage. In 1985, they opened the first American Italian museum, which moved to Albany. “The museum is 25 years old and our association is 42 years old. Our purpose is to honor the Italian immigrants by telling their stories and sharing their contributions,” said DiNovo.
“Every October we celebrate Italian Heritage Month to educate ourselves to learn more about our own culture and heritage and inform the public. That is very important in a multicultural society such as ours.”
Throughout the month, the museum hosted several events like a Columbus Day celebration, a concert by students of Niskayuna High School, and an Italian Heritage Month program. The museum features a special exhibit titled “Saluting Italian & Italian American Nobel Prize Laureates” compiled by DiNovo. “This October, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the Italian and Italian American Nobel Prize winners because they have had such a big influence on the world.”
Displayed in the museum’s exhibit room are portraits of Nobel Prize laureates. Camillo Golgi and Giosuè Carducci were the first Italians to be presented with Nobel Prizes in 1906. There have been 26 laureates of Italian descent to date, the most recent being Giorgio Parisi, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021.
DiNovo says that around 90 million people of Italian descent live outside of their home country, over 26 million of which reside in the U.S. “The first Italian to come to Albany was in 1625. We have been here for so long that people think of us for things like pizza and some of the negative stereotypes. I like diversity and dislike the idea that we are all alike. I’m having a hard time trying to keep our customs and traditions and not Americanize them. What we have to do is stand our ground and do it with some compromises. Some compromises are necessary but not eliminating the whole process.”
The museum will continue to celebrate Italian culture and history past October with events in November and December. Click here for more information about upcoming events.