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Omaha’s Little Italy

In the Fall of 2018 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s “History Harvest” project focused on the Italian-American communities in Nebraska. The main event was held on October 28, 2018, at the Santa Lucia Hall, in the heart of Omaha's historic Little Italy. Partner organizations included the Santa Lucia Festival Committee, the Sons and Daughters of Italy, and the American-Italian Heritage Society.

Seven undergraduate and two graduate students under the guidance of Prof. Gerald Steinacher were looking for diaries, photographs, letters, maps, images, war memorabilia, and other family and cultural heirlooms. “Harvested” family artifacts were photographed, digitized and returned to the owners. This exhibition features a selection of items that document the experience of growing up in the immigrant community of Little Italy.

Most Italian immigrants arrived in Omaha before the 1920s and many came from the Sicilian town of Carlentini. The people from Carlentini formed a close-knit community in the new land, held on to many traditions, and kept in touch with relatives and friends left behind in Sicily. The Catholic immigrants also brought the worship of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy), the patron saint of Carlentini, to their new homeland. Omaha’s Santa Lucia festival was founded in 1925 and has been celebrated ever since. For many Italian-Americans in Omaha this is an expression of the importance of traditions and community.

The history of Little Italy shows how immigrants have always cherished and held on to their culture. Unlike the history of Little Italy communities in cities like New York or Chicago, the history of Little Italy in Omaha is much less known. This is despite there being not one, but three “Italian colonies” in this major Midwestern city. In many ways, the lack of awareness about Little Italy in Omaha highlights the often overlooked diversity of Nebraska.

The History Harvest started in 2010 and is co-directed by William Thomas and Patrick Jones, faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences at Nebraska.

This exhibition highlights select items from the History Harvest about Little Italy in Omaha. To navigate the exhibition, please, click on the image twice in order to enlarge it and see it in high resolution. Not all the texts are translated, but for texts in Italian we aimed to provide at least short summaries of the content.

The complete collection of items is searchable through the search option on the right upper corner.

For questions or to provide additional information on items contact: Prof. Gerald Steinacher at Gsteinacher2@unl.edu

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