THE ITALIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY (IHS)  
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Home > The Collection

THE COLLECTION

The IHS has an extensive collection of photographs, ephemera, letters, documents, official records and newspaper cuttings which relate to Italian migration and settlement in Australia. Much of the material has been donated by Italian migrants and their descendents. While reflective of the experience of Italians across the country, the focus of this collection is Victoria.

The Main Collection

Diplomatic Archives
Document Collection
Index of Italian Civil Internees
Library
Object Collection
Oral History Collection
Photographic Collection

Special Collections

Bonollo Collection
Candela Collection
COASIT Records and Archives
Fashion Collection
Food Industry Collection
Jacqueline Templeton Collection
Mangiamele Collection
Newspaper Collection
Opera Collection
Public Security Archives 1928-1939
Santospirito Collection
De Bolfo Collection


Please note that images and text items from the collection may only be reproduced, transmitted or copied with the express permission of the Italian Historical Society.

For more information, click here

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The Main Collection

Diplomatic Archives

Signature and official seal of Cavaliere Biagi, the Italian Consul-General in Melbourne, 1869.
Signature and official seal of Cavaliere Biagi, the Italian Consul-General in Melbourne, 1869.

The archives comprise approximately 8,000 records of correspondence and reports between Italian Consular representatives in Australia and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome from 1856 to 1947. The records, all on microfilm, document the forging of links between Italy and Australia, particularly in the field of cultural relations. The latter part of the collection covers the rise of Fascism and its influence on the Italian-Australian community. You can search for relevant documents by consulting either the Diplomatic Archives Index (1856-1899) or the IHS Diplomatic Archives database (1900-1947), which provide details of dates, names and locations of senders and receivers, as well as the subject of each document. Summaries of individual records are also available.

The Diplomatic Archives for the period 1920 to 1945 can be searched by clicking here.

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Document Collection

Passport of Rosa Cavedon (nee Bettale) and children Giovanni, Gino and Maria. Vicenza, 1927.
Passport of Rosa Cavedon (nee Bettale) and children Giovanni, Gino and Maria. Vicenza, 1927.
  This rich collection tells the migration story from departure to arrival: the voyage, the search for work, family reunion and settlement. Included are originals and copies of: ship and airline tickets; passports; correspondence; farming and employment contracts; payslips and tax returns; national service records; and postcards depicting towns of origin, planes and passenger ships.

Access by appointment.

Search the IHS catalogue for this collection here.

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Index of Italian Civil Internees

Italian civilian internees at the Loveday Internment Camp, Loveday, South Australia, c. 1942.
Italian civilian internees at the Loveday Internment Camp, Loveday, South Australia, c. 1942.

When Mussolini entered the war against the Allies in June 1940, he could not have envisaged the dramatic impact his decision would have on the lives of Italian migrants. Over 4,700 Italians and Australians of Italian extraction were arrested as enemy aliens and sent to internment camps around Australia. The IHS has compiled a database of Italian civil internees which includes people who were living in Australia at the time of capture, those who were resident in New Guinea and the British protectorate of Palestine, and passengers and crew from Italian ships captured in Australian waters. Also included are Italians who formed part of the group known as the Dunera Boys. The Index of Italian Civil Internees lists the following:
  • full name of internee
  • year of birth
  • place of birth
  • year and place of capture
  • occupation at time of capture
  • year of release
  • next of kin
  • place of residence of next of kin.
Access the internment database by clicking here.

Material included in the Index of Italian Civil Internees was extracted from public records. You can conduct a search for the original records, and for those of Italian Prisoners of War interned in Australia at the National Archives of Australia.

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Library

The Italian Historical Society has a collection of over 2,500 titles dating back to the mid 1800s.
The Italian Historical Society has a collection of over 2,500 titles dating back to the mid 1800s.

The Library holds 2,500 volumes of books, periodicals, and rare and out of print publications dealing with the history of migration, multiculturalism and Italian and Australian migration policy. Also available is a collection of newspaper cuttings and other printed material filed by subject. The masters and doctoral theses section covers a diverse range of topics relating to Italian migration, from artisans to restaurants, wine and writers. The Library is a focal point for university students around Australia and visiting scholars from Europe. You can conduct a search of the IHS library catalogue either by visiting us or by making a request via email, letter or telephone. This collection is not for loan.

The catalogue can be accessed remotely by clicking here.

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Object Collection

Doll brought to Australia by Vera Panayotis when she migrated in 1955.
Doll brought to Australia by Vera Panayotis when she migrated in 1955.
  Since its inception, the IHS has collected household and personal objects relating to Italian migration. Included are: embroidered manchester; handmade clothing; kitchen utensils; food and beverage packaging; musical instruments; suitcases and children's toys. The items now form a part of the Immigration and Cultural Diversity Collection at Museum Victoria

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Oral History Collection

Giovanni Cera [left], his brother-in-law, Mario Costa and Laura Mecca of the Italian Historical Society sampling grapes grown in Giovanni's backyard. Carlton, Victoria, 1990. The photograph was taken during an oral history interview.
Giovanni Cera [left], his brother-in-law, Mario Costa and Laura Mecca of the Italian Historical Society sampling grapes grown in Giovanni's backyard. Carlton, Victoria, 1990. The photograph was taken during an oral history interview.

We have over three hundred recorded interviews conducted with Italian migrants and their children. Topics covered include: birthplace and local customs; reasons for emigrating; the voyage; and experiences of life in Australia from the 1800s to the 1970s. Of special interest are interviews with civilians and POWs, who recall their internment in Australia during World War II. The POWs also detail the conditions which led to their subsequent return to Australia as migrants. Many of the interviews have been transcribed and in some cases a summary in English is available for those interviews recorded in Italian or dialect. Access to this collection is subject to restrictions.

Access by appointment.

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Photographic Collection

Canecutters, [left to right] Celio Bagiotti, Tony Rossatti and Luigi Gianoli, on the Di Bella sugarcane plantation. Ingham, Queensland, 1955.
Canecutters, [left to right] Celio Bagiotti, Tony Rossatti and Luigi Gianoli, on the Di Bella sugarcane plantation. Ingham, Queensland, 1955.

The IHS has around 10,000 original photographs and copies which illustrate the migration and settlement process in Australia and the contribution made by migrants to their new home. This historically and socially significant collection spans over 100 years, from the 1850s to the mass migrations of the 1950s and 1960s. The images represent important life events in the village of origin and in Australia (including proxy marriages and religious celebrations); the voyage, arrival and settlement in Australia; work and education; the growth of the migrant community; internment of civilians and POWs in Australia; family life; customs and traditions; and leisure and entertainment.

You can view the images on our electronic database by clicking here.

A selection of photographs from the collection can be seen online at the State Library of Victoria by typing Italian Historical Society and selecting Collections/Series Name List.

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Special Collections

Bonollo Collection

Emilio Bonollo greets his proxy bride Caterina [Nella] Bonollo after her arrival at Station Pier, Melbourne, 29 September 1931.
Emilio Bonollo greets his proxy bride Caterina [Nella] Bonollo after her arrival at Station Pier, Melbourne, 29 September 1931.

This exceptional collection of letters, photographs and documents charts the love story of Emilio and Nella Bonollo, both from Vicenza, Veneto. The couple began a courtship by correspondence when the young Emilio migrated to Australia in 1927. Nella accepted Emilio's written proposal and was married by proxy 5 years later, arriving in Australia in 1931. Husband and wife continued their correspondence during forced periods of separation, first when Emilio travelled the country in search of work and later when he served in the Australian Armed Forces during World War II. The material, in Italian and English, includes: personal and official correspondence; diaries; photographs; and business and migration records. You can view the material on database at the IHS by appointment. Access to digitised copies of these records has been made possible through the generosity of Emilio and Nella's son Allan Bonollo.

Access by appointment.

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Candela Collection

Francesco and brother Angelo Candela with a cousin. Viggiano, Basilicata, c. 1913.
Francesco and brother Angelo Candela with a cousin. Viggiano, Basilicata, c. 1913.
  Like many other musicians from Basilicata, Vincenzo Candela travelled the world in search of work as a seasonal musician. His skills as a tailor and commercial photographer ensured that he was in constant employment. In 1920, Vincenzo arrived in Australia with son Angelo and second wife Emmanuela Nigro. The collection spans nearly a century beginning with Vincenzo's work as a seasonal musician in Europe and the Americas in the 1890s. Vincenzo was one of an influential group of migrant tailors who popularised Italian fashions in Australia between the wars. Vincenzo's son, musician and conductor Angelo, performed on stage and radio from the 1930s and toured with the Australian Army Entertainment Unit during World War II. Included are: business and personal correspondence; documents; photographs; diaries; Italian newspapers and magazines; sheet music and music programs; postcards and business cards; and military memorabilia.

Access by appointment.

Search the IHS catalogue for the Candela sheet music collection here.

Music sheets owned by Angelo Candela are in the Monash University Rare Books Collection

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COASIT Records and Archives

Elda Vaccari, President of COASIT, welcoming the Italian Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Alberto Bemporad, to the welfare organisation’s Drummond Street premises. Carlton, Victoria, 1972.
Elda Vaccari, President of COASIT, welcoming the Italian Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Alberto Bemporad, to the welfare organisation's Drummond Street premises. Carlton, Victoria, 1972.

COASIT Italian Assistance Association, the parent body of the IHS, was established in 1967. It is the largest migrant welfare body in the country. The collection of COASIT internal records and memorabilia documents changes in both Italian and Australian government policies on education, welfare, child care and care of the aged.

Access by appointment.

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Fashion Collection

Models in outfits created by Madame Serini of Madame Serini Haute Couture in Toorak. Melbourne, c. 1978.
Models in outfits created by Madame Serini of Madame Serini Haute Couture in Toorak. Melbourne, c. 1978.
  The Australian fashion industry owes much to Italian migrant couturiers, seamstresses, tailors and shoemakers. This collection begins with the Gold Rush and features the work of pioneers including Madame Itala Serini, who opened Australia's first Italian couture house in Melbourne in 1959. Included are originals and copies of: dress patterns; fashion magazines; business cards; photographs; scrapbooks; and promotional material.

Access by appointment.

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Food Industry Collection

Giovanni Cera [on mandolin] and brother, Rino [on guitar], lead a group of singing waiters at Mario's Restaurant, Melbourne, c. 1950s. From the Food Collection of the Italian Historical Society.
Giovanni Cera [on mandolin] and brother, Rino [on guitar], lead a group of singing waiters at Mario's Restaurant, Melbourne, c. 1950s. From the Food Collection of the Italian Historical Society.

Italians have played a pivotal role in the Australian food industry since the 1800s as manufacturers, retailers, winemakers, caterers, chefs, waiters, and restaurant owners and managers. This collection of documents and ephemera includes: menus; packaging labels; newspaper cuttings and historical notes pertaining to such household names as: Florentino, The Latin, La Tosca/Hoddle Café, Mario's, Molina's, Ricco's, The Society and Verdi Café.

Access by appointment.

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Jacqueline Templeton Collection

Exterior of the Santuario della Madonna di Tirano. Tirano, Valtellina, Italy, c. 1994. Photo: Jacqueline Templeton.
Exterior of the Santuario della Madonna di Tirano. Tirano, Valtellina, Italy, c. 1994. Photo: Jacqueline Templeton.
  Author and historian Jacqueline Templeton devoted much of her working life to the study of migrants from the Valtellina in the province of Sondrio. This unique collection of papers, documents and ephemera represents 10 years of research which culminated in Templeton's last book, From the Mountains to the Bush: Italian migrants write home from Australia, 1860-1962. The publication focuses on the lives of seasonal labourers who left their homes in the Valtellina (Lombardy) to find work in Australia. Included in the collection are originals and copies of the following documents pertaining to these individuals: letters; photographs; personal travel documents; shipping records; and newspaper cuttings. Also included in the collection is the agent's register of Valtellinese migrants who sailed to Australia with Lloyd Triestino. The document, which covers the period January 1948 to February 1978, lists each passenger's name, town of residence, age, date and place of issue of passport, ship and date of departure. Access to this collection has been made possible through the generosity of John Lack, editor of From the Mountains to the Bush and a colleague of Jacqueline Templeton.

Access by appointment.

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Mangiamele Collection

Filmmaker, Giorgio Mangiamele, behind the camera. Melbourne, c. 1960s.
Filmmaker, Giorgio Mangiamele, behind the camera. Melbourne, c. 1960s.
  Soon after his arrival in Australia in 1952, photographer Giorgio Mangiamele established a studio in Carlton. He quickly developed a name as a professional photographer and filmmaker. He is best known for his pioneering neo-realist films dealing with migrant life. Mangiamele's Clay (1965) was one of the first Australian films to be selected for competition at Cannes. Other films include: Il Contratto (1953), The Brothers (1958), The Spag (1962), Ninety-Nine Per Cent (1963), Boys in the Age of Machines (1964) and Sapos (1982). The collection includes: professional photographs; family snapshots; film scripts; libretti; newspaper cuttings; business cards; and official, legal and business documents. A selection of his films can be viewed on video at the IHS.

Access by appointment.

Search the IHS catalogue for this collection here.

The IHS has deposited original prints of Mangiamele films with the National Film and Sound Archive, which has video copies available for loan to the public.

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Newspaper Collection

Masthead of the bilingual weekly, Giornale Italiano, published in Sydney from 1932 to 1942. Issue dated 6 March 1940.
Masthead of the bilingual weekly, Giornale Italiano, published in Sydney from 1932 to 1942. Issue dated 6 March 1940.

The IHS has copies and originals of over 40 Italian newspaper and periodical titles dating back to the 1890s. Both Italian and Australian publications are represented. The size and diversity of the Italian migrant community from the early 1900s is reflected in the variety of titles published by businesses, the Catholic church, and cultural and political groups. Many were produced in both English and Italian and their content reflects the changing concerns of the community through the Depression and two world wars. Of special interest is the Sydney-based Oceania: Rivista Settimanale Italo-Australiana of 1914, a 1955 edition of Il Canguro = The Kangaroo from Perth, and the Melbourne anti-fascist newspaper Il Risveglio of 1945. Contact the IHS for a list of titles.

Access by appointment.

Search the IHS catalogue for this collection here.

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Opera Collection

Title page of the music sheet for Paolo Giorza's Cantata, performed at the opening ceremony of the Sydney International Exhibition on 17 September 1879.
Title page of the music sheet for Paolo Giorza's Cantata, performed at the opening ceremony of the Sydney International Exhibition on 17 September 1879.
  From the 1840s onward, Italians have played a central role in opera, classical music and ballet in Australia. Among the best known are the Carandini family, who opened a ballet and opera school in Hobart in 1843, and went on to tour the country. The Benvenuti family introduced classical music to Queensland in the late 1800s. Count and Countess Filippini helped establish opera companies in South and Western Australia in the 1920s. In 1906, violinist Alberto Zelman Junior, son of the composer and teacher of the same name, founded the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. These artists are represented in the collection by: photographs; biographies, newspaper clippings; and a scrapbook. Also included are signed concert programs; photographs taken on tour; a personal travel account; and tourist brochures and postcards of Australian cities from the papers of Concert Master Arturo Franco. Franco toured Australia in 1924 as part of the Melba Williamson Grand Opera Season.

Access by appointment.

Search the IHS catalogue for this collection here.


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Public Security Archives 1924-1939
Ministry of Interior, Department of Public Security

Excerpt from an Italian Secret Police file on the anti-fascist, Francesco Fantin, dated 29 November 1932.
Excerpt from an Italian Secret Police file on the anti-fascist, Francesco Fantin, dated 29 November 1932.

Between the two world wars, Italian anti-fascists including Francesco Carmagnola, Omero Schiassi, Carlo Simeoni and Francesco Fantin campaigned on behalf of Italian migrant workers and, through Italian-language newspapers, encouraged fellow Italians to oppose the fascist 'upholders of barbarity'. These activities attracted the attention of the Italian Secret Police, whose extensive dossiers also include reports on visits to Italy by Australian politicians and correspondence with local fascist sympathiser Eric Campbell.

Access by appointment.

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Santospirito Collection

One of the many hundreds of letters received by ‘La Mamma degli Italiani’, Lena Santospirito, from Italians hoping to migrate to Australia.

One of the many hundreds of letters received by 'La Mamma degli Italiani', Lena Santospirito, from Italians hoping to migrate to Australia.

Lena Santospirito was born in Ballarat in 1895 of Italian migrants from the Aeolian Islands. She devoted her adult life to the welfare of the Italian community in Melbourne. From 1940 to 1960, she headed the Archbishop's Italian Relief Committee which, during the war, provided assistance to both Italian civil internees and Italian Prisoners of War interned in camps in Australia. After the war, the Committee provided assistance to newly arrived migrants. The material provides an insight into the difficulties faced by Italian migrants during this period. Included are: photographs; postcards; as well as official, business and personal correspondence. Access to this collection is subject to restrictions.

Access by appointment.

Guide to the Santospirito collection

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TONY DE BOLFO Collection
 

This archive holds the material (images and documents gleaned from governmental and family sources) assembled by well-known Melbourne journalist and writer Tony De Bolfo over a period of eight years while researching his 2002 book In Search of Kings. What Became of the Passengers of the “Re d’Italia” (Harper Collins). Working from the original passenger list (which included the author’s grandfather Silvio De Bolfo), Tony De Bolfo has painstakingly reconstructed the life stories of 110 men, women and children who migrated to Australia in 1927 aboard the steamship Re d’Italia.

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Italian Historical Society—COASIT, Melbourne
189 Faraday Street, Carlton
VIC Australia 3053
Tel: 61+ (0)3 9349 9000 
Fax: 61+ (0)3 9349 9091 
Email: ihs@coasit.com.au



 
 
© 2006 Italian Historical Society—COASIT, Melbourne, Australia. All rights reserved. ABN 85 005 596 485 |   Last updated: 6.1.07
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