Renovation of The Italian American Museum in Little Italy




Rendering: 185 Grand St. Image courtesy of the Oved Group

The Italian American Museum in Little Italy is kicking-off the New Year in 2018 with a presentation of architectural renderings and a model for its anticipated expansion, given by Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Founder and President.

Now, a full year later, here’s an update.

Rendering: 185 Grand St. Image courtesy of the Oved Group

Construction on this project began in 2018, and slated for completion in 2021. The new space will encompass four levels that will include permanent and temporary exhibition space, an auditorium for film screenings, lectures, presentations, meetings, and theatrical, music and dance performances. The new space will quadruple its current size, and be located at the current location with an entrance one Mulberry Street. The Museum’s mission will celebrate modern-day Italian culture, with exhibitions and programs that feature artists, authors and thinkers from Italy.

via Italian American Museum, January 2019

For a decade, the museum did its best to capture the Italian-American experience in 1,800 square feet of space, roughly the size of a nice-sized Manhattan apartment. Two years ago, a developer bought the two-story property from Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and his board members. The new owners agreed to provide a new home for the museum rent-free in the mid-rise apartment building that will replace it.

“They broke ground last November,” said Scelsa. “The foundation will be finished by the end of summer. “Another year for the edifice and we should be open by spring 2021,” he said. “That’s my hope.

via Italian American Museum, January 2019

The new museum will cover 6,500 square feet on four floors.

Much of the permanent collection that will be in the new IAM will have come from the attics of New Yorkers — mandolins, barbers’ tools, extortion letters from the Black Hand (a kind of forerunner of the Mafia) and former New York City cop Frank Serpico’s gun. The museum will be divided into four sections, beginning with the first Italian immigrants to the New World in 1635.

via Italian American Museum, January 2019

The second section is about daily life in Little Italy, once the largest colony of Italians outside the boot.

A third section is on “Becoming Americans,” which Scelsa is intimately tied to World War II and thousands of Italian Americans proving their loyalty by going to war against their ancestral homeland.

via Italian American Museum, January 2019

It also covers the migration of Italians out of the Little Italys of American cities into the suburbs, where they became nearly indistinguishable from other Americans.

“They didn’t feel they had to be in a enclave to protect themselves any longer,” said Scelsa.

“How We See Ourselves” is the final section, the one that tackles the barbed stigma of “The Godfather” and gangster films like it.

Scelsa, 73, retired from Queens College in 2008, expressly to get the museum started.

Anticipated grand opening in time for The Feast of San Gennaro 2021.

Italian American Museum, via Google Maps, via op.AL from

If you missed the Design Exhibit, check out the renderings of the new museum at here.  

The Italian American Museum is located at 155 Mulberry Street, NYC