Italian Researcher Receives NMU Grant


When Cristina Menghini decided to write her master’s thesis on Italian immigration to the Copper Country, she found some valuable resources at the Central U.P. and NMU Archives. Menghini had a chance to thoroughly review the materials as the latest recipient of a Grace Magnaghi research travel grant from NMU. She will give a campus presentation based on her findings in April.


Menghini is a graduate student in industrial archaeology at Michigan Tech. Her thesis topic combines her academic interest with her personal interest in immigrants from her home country. She is a native of Foligno, which is about a two-hour drive from Rome .


“The immigrants came mainly from two places in Italy : Tuscany and Piedmont ,” Menghini said. “They organized themselves into different societies. Many came here originally for mining and several had farms. Later on, their business interests expanded. The 1910 census showed that many Italians owned grocery stores and saloons.”


Menghini discovered that there were about 3,000 Italians in the Copper Country in 1900. The number increased by 1910, but took a hit by the next census a decade later, primarily because of the 1913 miner’s strike.


“In several interviews, people talk about their parents moving to other mining areas such as Pennsylvania ,” she added.


Menghini was able to find some Italian-language documents and newspapers at the MTU archives, but she said the most valuable sources of information came from Russell Magnaghi .


“I used some of his material at the beginning of my research, and when the opportunity for the travel grant surfaced, I was eager to apply,” she said. “What I think is really nice is the oral interviews he had from Houghton County from the early 1980s. He also found some documents in Calumet , books of Italian mutual benefit societies and names of Italian workers.


“Professor Magnaghi gave me notes he gathered during his research for his book on Italians in Michigan , as well as tapes and transcripts from the oral interviews. He and Marcus Robyns (Archives) helped me a lot – not just in providing resources, but with arranging transportation, accommodations and other things.”


Robyns explained why the research travel grant selection committee decided to support Menghini’s project: “We agreed that the archives and its collection could best serve her project. It is a competitive selection process and it’s not that the other proposals weren’t good projects. It’s just that this one was a better fit in terms of the materials available to her.”


Menghini said she hopes to complete her thesis by May.




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Updated: April 23, 2004