Mattatuck Museum Highlights Italian-American Immigrants From Waterbury in New Showcase
Damn Mattatuck Museum, you are shooting through my heart with one of your latest exhibits. I am of Italian-American descent. My great-grandmother and great grandfather were both born in Avellino, Italy and immigrated to Waterbury, Connecticut around 1900.
There's a new exhibit - The Immigrant Suitcase Project: Italians of Waterbury on view in the History Gallery of Waterbury's Mattatuck Museum that I think is a brilliant, beautiful idea because it hits so close to home, for a lot of us.
My great grandparents both passed away before I was born. All I knew about them was the stories that my grandmother and mom told me, and their last possessions. There were a couple of old suitcases in my grandma's closet. These sacred items were dusty, and smelled like 40 years of cigarettes. But inside, they were filled with black and white photos, jewelry, old watches, religious articles, and assorted knickknacks. Most were written in Italian, and those words were tough on a 6-year-old brain just learning how to read English.
Every once in awhile, mom and grandma would go through the contents of Nonna's suitcase, and reminisce about an item, how things used to be. I'd love to listen to the stories of the Italian horn, the jewelry, the beautiful water of Grotta Azzurra, and learn about where my great-grandparents came from.
Anyway, the idea for the new exhibit at The Matt struck me as brilliant. The Immigrant Suitcase Project: Italians of Waterbury is on view through October 31, 2022. It's described by the Mattatuck Museum as a "Showcase of objects that provide a glimpse into the lives of Italians who immigrated to Waterbury." Each item on view was loaned by Waterbury residents to represent their ancestor's story.
I wish I still had my great grandparent's last possessions. My parents got rid of so many things after my grandmother passed away, including those old, dusty suitcases. I'll be making my way to the Matt soon, just to see, hopefully I'll have that special moment of connectivity.