Historic archive of restored Scots Italians documents revealed

Giovanni & Nilde Cavani and family, circa 1913. Picture: The Italian Government
Giovanni & Nilde Cavani and family, circa 1913. Picture: The Italian Government
Share this article
1
Have your say

A HIDDEN archive about the Italians who were living in Scotland in the run up to the Second World has been revealed for the first time.

Fragile documents and personal keepsakes painting a picture of the immigrants who started new lives and businesses in Scotland.

Giovanni Cavani's census return, 1934. Picture: The Italian Government

Giovanni Cavani's census return, 1934. Picture: The Italian Government

A new exhibition in Edinburgh created by the National Records of Scotland and the Italian Consulate in the city includes displays of the last surviving set of 1930s census records ordered to be taken across Europe by Mussolini’s government.

The painstakingly-restored documents, which have been captured digitally to allow access for future generations of Scots-Italians, details some 1400 households across the country.

Documents, photographs and other objects have been loaned by Scots-Italian families is said to “open a window” into the lives of shopkeepers, cafe proprietors, mosaic workers, hairdressers, cobblers and carpenters who settled here from 1890.The exhibition also includes a film documentary featuring contemporary Scots-Italians, which was shot around the country by Lorenzo Colantoni and Riccardo Venturi, while a new book on the 1933 census –The Italians’ Count in Scotland – has also been published.

Experts at the National Library of Scotland have also helped created a virtual map showing where the Italians had settled in Scotland by the 1930s, including Stornoway, Orkney, Thurso, Wick, Tain, Gairloch, Campbeltown and Stranraer.

Their stories, the dreams they had as well as their achievements here in Scotland, their significant contribution to the well-being of the nation and its culture make us all too aware of how crucial it is to keep an open-minded approach to migration nowadays

Pasquale Terracciano

Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian ambassador in London, who was visiting Edinburgh yesterday to open the exhibition, said: “I’m extremely grateful to the National Records of Scotland for the great job they have done in restoring the Italian archives and making them available to the public.

“Their stories, the dreams they had as well as their achievements here in Scotland, their significant contribution to the well-being of the nation and its culture make us all too aware of how crucial it is to keep an open-minded approach to migration nowadays.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, said: “This exhibition is a great opportunity for people to learn more about some of the close ties between Scotland and Italy.

“The story of the Scots-Italians is one of amazing continuity and vitality, and their contribution to the life of Scotland is to be celebrated.”

The Bartolucci family circa 1934. Picture: The Italian Government

The Bartolucci family circa 1934. Picture: The Italian Government

Tim Ellis, keeper of the National Records of Scotland, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to offer our conservation expertise to the Italian government to restore this unique and fascinating set of records that tells the story of Scots Italians between the wars.

“Through this enjoyable exhibition about that community in its formative decades, we are presenting that story in the country where they and their descendants made a home.”

Family Portrait: The Scots Italians 1890-1940 is at General Register House on Princes Street from until 29 January.

A sample of the archive. Picture: Riccardo Venturi, Akronos

A sample of the archive. Picture: Riccardo Venturi, Akronos

A keepsake that forms part of the archive. Picture: Riccardo Venturi, Akronos

A keepsake that forms part of the archive. Picture: Riccardo Venturi, Akronos

Alberto Pinchera. Picture: The Italian Government

Alberto Pinchera. Picture: The Italian Government