The recent Republican National Convention brought a lot of different people to Cleveland. In addition to the politicos were dignitaries, namely ambassadors from 70 different countries. Their interest was not only to observe the convention process and understand the presidential candidate’s platform, but they also wanted to investigate the region for educational and economic opportunities.
The ambassadors attended group meetings with local civic and business leaders. Many also ventured off on their own to explore places more pertinent to their interests and background. Escorted by Honorary Consul of Italy in Cleveland Serena Scaiola, Armando Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy, and his guests Paolo Toschi, Poltical Counselor, and Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Director of Eastwest Magazine, visited a number of different cultural institutions, including the Western Reserve Historical Society Cleveland History Center in University Circle.
His Excellency’s visit to the WRHS Cleveland History Center focused mostly on a review of some materials in the Italian American Collection. I chose to share some papers documenting the emigration of the Spagnoli-Pellegrine Family from Rionero Sannitico, including an Italian passport from the early 1900s, naturalization papers, birth certificates, and a marriage certificate from Saint Maron Church in the Blue Rock neighborhood. Ambassador Varricchio was surprised and delighted to learn of the institution’s efforts to preserve the history of the Italian community of Northeast Ohio. He was also especially pleased to learn that a curatorial position is dedicated solely to Italian American history.
I also shared photographs and papers from the Barricelli Family with the Ambassador. Giovanni Alfonso Barricelli (1873-1934) was a cardiopulmonary specialist born in Benevento, Italy. Dr. Barricelli came to Cleveland in the early 1900s and served the many Italian immigrants living in the Big Italy neighborhood. In addition to photographs of the Barricelli family members, the collection also contains signed photographs from Italian dignitaries of the time. Ambassador Varricchio enjoyed seeing an autographed portrait of Queen Elena of Italy and shared some of his knowledge about her reign.
The visit concluded with a quick tour through other areas of the Cleveland History Center, including the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum and the Bingham-Hanna Mansion and Garden. Meeting the Ambassador and sharing some of the Italian American Collection with him was a great opportunity. He expressed interest in returning to the Cleveland History Center and spending more time studying the Italian American Collection.