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Italians abroad - Expo Turin 1911

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This is the last major exhibition to be held in the centre's buildings at the Pilonetto. It is also one of the most instructive. It is especially dear to the hearts of the Italian people; if they sometimes feel sad about the painful circumstances of emigration, they also find in it subjects of consolation and joy.

The exhibition is composed of four communicating galleries, but all have their own entrance along the portico of the main square.

The first two galleries, coming from the Providence gallery, open onto the hallway occupied by the large plaster statue of Dante and the exhibition of the "Dante Alighieri" society, which sums up in the name of our greatest poet all his work in defence of Italianness abroad.

Walking through the corridors of the two galleries, you will find our main free overseas colonies represented: for example, Italians in Canada, in the United States, in Brazil, in Uruguay, in the Argentine Republic.

There are also exhibits of Italians living in Europe and in the Mediterranean basin: Italians in Switzerland, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Paris, Marseille, London, Manchester, Egypt, Montenegro.

Let us glean in passing, as usual, some data that may highlight the character and importance of this exhibition. On the left, from London, there are numerous photographs of hotels and restaurants run by Italians; on the right, a whole room in carved wood in the so-called Georgian style, invented by Grinling Gibbons and happily copied by Rogers. For Italians in Switzerland, we have mainly maps, photographs, drawings of the recently completed Loetschberg tunnel, executed almost entirely by Italian workers. For the Italians in Vienna, we have views and drawings of the second aqueduct of the city of Vienna, of the Wochein railway from Klangenfurt to Trieste, of the portal and bridge over the river Vienna, grandiose works executed in recent years by Italian construction companies.

The Italians in Paris, in very large numbers, give us certain and reassuring proof of their economic and social activity. Among the many restaurants run by our compatriots, we should mention the Zucco restaurants, which show the statistics of their receipts and the foodstuffs imported from Italy. From 1901 to 1910, they collected 11,784,242 francs and imported foodstuffs from Italy for 4,799,181 francs.

There are also many educational and charitable societies. Let us recall the Lyre italienne, founded in 1876; let us note among the most modest by the number of members and the smallness of the capital, but among the most deserving by its spirit of patriotism and foresight, the Valsoana, a mutual aid society with 10,684 francs in receipts and 8,357 in expenses, the Pro Schola, instituted between the natives of Challand St. Victor
in the Aosta Valley, with a current capital of 3,000 francs to be increased to 8,000.

The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Paris displays graphs and charts of trade between Italy and France for a period of over 80 years, from 1827 to 1910. In 1827, Italy exported about 60 million goods to France, and imported 40 million; in 1910, Italian exports amounted to 190 million and French imports to 330 million. Putting the two figures together, we have for 1827 a trade of 100 million between Italy and France, and, in 1910, of over 500 million. The maximum was reached, with 640 million, in 1881, before Italian products had found new outlets in central Europe, especially in Germany.

The Italians in Egypt are distinguished by the manufacture of furniture, and also by the numerous and important construction works carried out in Cairo.

This first part of the exhibition of Italians abroad is completed by the collection of Italian newspapers published abroad and colonial monographs. Without going out into the square, you can also visit the other two galleries of the section, by walking along the side corridor on the left. There are the special exhibitions of the Italian Geographical Society, which was founded in 1862 and followed the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy; the Italian General Navigation, the Veloce and the Italian Fencing Masters abroad.

The third gallery contains the exhibition of the Salesian Missionaries and the historical exhibition that we will discuss later; let us visit the fourth and last gallery, one of the most original and homogeneous, one of those that best express the national spirit of the section.

As we enter this gallery, which is always crowded with visitors, we find ourselves in the middle of Africa. On the right, Tripoli de Barbarie and Tunis; on the left, the Colony of Eritrea and Italian Somalia.

The Tripolitania exhibition spreads its views of caravans from the Sudan under a row of cheerful Moorish arcades. The populous and active colony of Tunis produces and exhibits oils, wines, liqueurs, dates and minerals. Local Italian trade is supported by the Italian Cooperative Credit Society of Tunis, founded in 1900; from the 225,000 francs of its first balance sheet, it had risen to 1,377,871 francs by 31 December 1910.

The official exhibitions of the Colony of Eritrea and Italian Somalia bring us the scent of wild countries, a breath of wind from the African desert. Let's stop for a few minutes in front of the Somalia exhibition, less known among us than Eritrea. It has a rational plan: it first shows us the housing models of the natives, from the mondullo, a hut with a pointed roof used in upper Somalia, on the Juba and along the Shabelle, to the naounba usi, a Bravan hut, to the arisch, a type of hut on the coast; to the viàco, a round hut found along the Bardera, the Juba and the Ouébi-Shabelle. After the house, the fishing occupations, with the different forms of boats, from the large model of sambuque (casbah) to the pirogue (gâri) and to the special type of sailing boats (béden and metempi). The fishing instruments are represented by nets, hooks for ordinary fishing and shark fishing. Lastly, there are clothes, fabrics for wrapping the waist in a very primitive way, from ordinary coloured fabrics to brightly coloured fabrics for women.

The gallery is closed at the back by the exhibition of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which deals specifically with the important problem of emigration. The statistics on the walls tell us that today 5 million Italians have abandoned their mother country for distant lands. The number of emigrants, which in 1876 was barely 100,000, was no less than 750,000 in 1906; in 1909 there was a slight decrease and only 625,000 were recorded. The social phenomenon of emigration can be better understood by separating emigration to European countries and the Mediterranean basin from emigration across the ocean. The first, which is rather temporary, made up almost exclusively of Italian emigration in 1879 and amounted to 90,000 emigrants; it reached its peak in 1907 with 290,000 emigrants and dropped to 220,000 in 1909. The second, on the other hand, which in most cases is definitive, began in 1876 with 20,000 emigrants; 30 years later, in 1906, it reached a maximum of 510,000, then fell sharply in 1908 to 210,000 and rose again the following year to 400,000. The causes of the 1908 decline are to be found in the terrible industrial crisis of that year in the USA.

For the protection of emigrants on departure, during their journey and on arrival, the Emigrant Commissariat exhibits, among other things, an entire ship's infirmary, and various patronage societies give statistics of their benevolence.

©Guide Officiel de l'Exposition Internationale de Turin 1911