Huskers to harvest histories of Italian-American families

Huskers to harvest histories of Italian-American families

The P. Cosentino Italian Band, circa 1940.
Santa Lucia Festival
The P. Cosentino Italian Band, circa 1940.

Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of History, working with the Italian-American community, will document family histories from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Santa Lucia Hall, 725 Pierce St. in Omaha.

Free, on-street parking will be available. Partner organizations include the Santa Lucia Festival Committee, Sons of Italy and American-Italian Heritage Society.

As part of the ongoing History Harvest project, students are seeking diaries, photographs, letters, images, recipes, and other family and cultural heirlooms. “Harvested” family artifacts will be photographed, digitized and returned to the owners the same day. Students will then post a selection of these family treasures on the History Harvest website to make them available for Nebraskans and others.

“Little Italy in Omaha highlights the diversity of Nebraska,” said Gerald Steinacher, associate professor of history, who is teaching the History Harvest class this semester. “Its history shows how immigrants have always cherished and held on to their culture.”

P.J. Asta, Santa Lucia Festival Committee member, is also excited about the project.

"The History Harvest is an excellent historical presentation and preservation effort that will reach into the heart and soul of an Italian-American experience in Omaha's historic Little Italy,” Asta said. “It will complement and reinforce an ongoing renaissance.”

Mike DiGiacomo, immediate past president of the Santa Lucia Festival Committee and producer of “Devoti,” a documentary about the history of the festival and Omaha's Little Italy, said the History Harvest fits in precisely with the mission of the nonprofit.

"It's a great educational opportunity and connecting us with the community," he said.

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.

Learn more about the History Harvest.