Professor Philip J. DiNovo is the Founder and President of the esteemed American Italian Heritage Association and the American Italian Heritage Museum in Albany, New York. He has also been knighted by the Italian Government and is a respected figure in America’s Italian community

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE June 2021

Even though I know full well that we are unable to take back the past, I often wish I had expressed a greater appreciation to my dear parents and grandparents for all of the enormous sacrifices they made to benefit our family. Like many of you have done, I made a donation to our museum in recognition of my beloved ancestors so they may be perpetually honored. This year we celebrate the 25th birthday of our museum, a monument which honors the Italian immigrants who sacrificed so we might have the American dream.

Our success as an organization is something that I pray for every day. There have been so many times of desolation that come to mind. When you think of all the trials and tribulations we have encountered over these many years, you know why I give glory to God that we are able to celebrate our quarter century milestone.

The Association headquarters was located in my home while I lived in Morrisville, NY and taught at the college. During that time I proposed to our Association Board that we needed to accomplish so much more than we were presently doing in order to carry out our important stated mission. Toward that end I suggested establishment of an American Italian Museum. Needless to say, they were very skeptical and it took a great deal of effort to convince them to go forward. Their skepticism was understandable as money was nil. So, I met with Fr. Henry Benin who was the Pastor at St. Mary of Mount Carmel, the Italian parish in Utica. My reason for speaking with him was that the parish possessed a vacant convent which he graciously allowed us to use without having to pay rent; we paid for all other expenses. A great debt of gratitude is owed to our members in Central New York, especially our Utica area members, who gave us a firm foundation for our present museum. Most of those dedicated members are honored within our museum and have not been forgotten. I really appreciate the following quote attributed to St. Catherine of Siena: “Nothing is ever achieved without much enduring”.

At present, we own three buildings; our membership extends across the United States; our treasures encompass an important and unique collection of artifacts, photos and documents. We have accomplished so much in these twenty-five years while welcoming visitors from every state in the union as well as 31 countries. Numerous events, programs and classes have been held to preserve our Italian heritage. For all of those reasons & more, we have much to celebrate!

The inventor of the treadmill died at the relatively young age of 54 whereas the KFC originator was 94 years old when he passed away. People will come to different conclusions after reading the previous statement. Based on statistical analysis, the conclusion is that you will live longer if you take proper care of your health. That is a fact. As your President, I am trying my best to look at the facts and use sound business practices in regard to the A.I.H.A.&M. We have faced numerous hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Add all of our everyday challenges to those circumstances and you then understand why we can be easily overwhelmed. The realization is that we are not in charge, but we have the ability to endure when we practice good stewardship. The Officers and Board of Trustees will indeed work to be good stewards and plan for a bright future.

To forget one’s ancestors is like a river without a source or a tree without roots! There are many reasons why a vast number of people known to us lack ancestral roots. Our mission which we have chosen to accept is to record and preserve our Italian heritage. We welcome those who already have roots along with anyone who is still seeking. Being of Italian descent is not a requirement for membership in our organization. As always, you are encouraged to invite your family, friends and those searching for their roots to join our Association and reap the benefits of our on-going mission.


Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo
 

 

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE APRIL 2021

 Giovanni E. Schiavo is an Italian American hero to whom we owe so much for his great contribution to our cause. His piercing words are as follows: “As for my work, I don’t have anyone to thank. Not one Italian American individual, society, foundation, fraternal association, individual has given me a plug nickel”. I can absolutely relate to those very words because I found very little outside assistance when I founded our Association. Words alone will not help us with the many challenges that we presently face.

A member, the son of old friends of mine, is a very talented artist by the name of Mark R. Mazzarella. His oil paintings can be seen hanging in prestigious law offices, accounting firms, financial institutions and private art collections throughout the world. Many of his works are of the spectacular sunset and lush tropical scenery in the great state of Florida. He was kind enough to send me two copies of his book, Mazz Florida Dreamscapes 2, one of which can be found in our Museum library. He mentions my name and our Association on the last page of his book. Mark writes about how I encouraged him to paint Italian scenes in addition to his other subjects. Depicted on that formerly mentioned page is his painting, Old Tuscany Farm House, “20 x 24” (created by using thick paints and lots of palette knife work) along with the quote, “From inspiration and respect to the dedicated Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo”. I use this example as a reminder that you, too, can plant seeds in others so they will discover and treasure their Italian heritage and culture. Just think how very much we could accomplish if everyone helped to spread the word, thereby aiding all of us in carrying out our mission!

Who among us could have predicted a year like the one we have just experienced in which a deadly virus, COVID-19, would alter our lives to such a drastic extent. Our AIHA&M income has been reduced by 75% as a direct result of the pandemic. Since we are an all-volunteer organization without the benefit of a paid staff we do not qualify for any financial assistance from the government. The fact that we are faced with so many challenges was the reason why we held our 2021 Annual Appeal. We sincerely thank each one of you who supported us during this campaign. With much appreciation and gratefulness for every single donation, any amount of twenty-five dollars or more will be acknowledged in our newsletter.

Warmer weather is here and brings with it good things. For instance, the possibility for holding safe, socially distant outdoor gatherings is returning. We hope to offer more classes and events very soon. There is a saying that in every crisis there is opportunity. My hope is that the uncertainty, fear, isolation and unsure footing of the pandemic are in the past. I hope you will volunteer and be more active. We have a stated purpose and the future offers us the means to fulfill our goals. I invite you to be active again, so let us not waste any more time.

During the past year I made time to go through our files and what I found was truly amazing. We possess numerous wonderful documentations regarding all that we have accomplished over the last forty-one years. What a record! There is still so much to do which means that we must remain vibrant. Thank you for everything you have already done. We will indeed carry out our mission as long as we continue on this path.

Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo
 

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE February 2021


Hard to believe that it has been nearly one year since this awful pandemic attacked our nation and the whole world. I am sure many of us continue to reflect on the changes that have occurred over these past twelve months. We are direct witnesses to the devastation and have reluctantly become a part of history. Future generations will read in the history books about BC (Before COVID) and PC (Post COVID). The COVID-19 “experience” has had an enormous effect on all aspects of our lives. Hopefully, we have learned from the many lessons taught during this time and beyond. The various COVID-19 vaccines have given us tremendous hope and it is time to think of the future as well as what the new normal will be like. When you read about our organization’s future plans and events please keep in mind that their success depends on you. As your President I am being proactive when making decisions regarding the future direction rather than waiting to see what happens beforehand. It cannot be stressed enough that your ideas are always encouraged and most welcome.

Migrating Objects: Italian American Museums and the Creation of Collective Identity, written by Laura E. Ruberto and Joseph Sciorra (co-author), is a critical paper about Italian American museums. Actually, our museum along with a photo of one of our exhibits appears within the pages of the paper. The authors were critical of ALL of our Italian American museums. In addition, they wrote that not even one of them is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, which certifies an institution’s adherence to a set of national standards regarding museum practices. I wonder if Laura and Joseph have any idea what Italian American museums face on an on-going basis. They think we are amateur museums, not
only how displays look but also the quality of interpretation in relationship to standard practices. The reason why our Italian American museums are what they are is because they do not receive much-needed public support. We are devoid of any financial help from the federal, state or Italian government. By contrast, the local Irish American Museum receives an annual grant from the Irish government. And, they have the luxury of a paid staff! Think about it, we had to wait five whole years before we could even open because of the necessary restoration of our historic building. After all these years we are still carrying on our duties and responsibilities with a dedicated all-volunteer staff. Due to assimilation and the constant aging of our membership the challenges are greater now than when we began working towards the fulfillment of our mission. While Ruberto and Scioria can pontificate, those of us operating Italian American museums must deal with the reality of it all. When everything that we have faced is taken into consideration, it is truly a miracle that we are still in operation. We are exceedingly grateful to all our volunteers, members and donors who support and believe in us by sharing their time, talent and treasure.

The fact that visitors to our museum give us such high ratings really makes us happy. Their great comments lift our spirits and serve as encouragement for all of our efforts.

Thankfully, life goes on. Therefore, in closing, I would like to remind you just how much our treasured time-honored Italian traditions add to the celebration of our wonderful Easter holiday. On behalf of the Officers and the Board of Trustees you are wished a blessed Buona Pasqua.

Prof./Cav. Phillip J. DiNovo
 

 

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE November 2020


I saw the following statement on Facebook and thought it worth sharing with you: “I hope I never see a year like 2020 again”. It is not an understatement to say that it sure was a difficult year. Even with vaccines on the horizon we still do not know when the scourge will truly end. At present, the only thing we actually have power over is our own attitude and the choices we make as individuals regarding how to deal with the pandemic. This is the time to let your inner strength shine!

A psychiatrist and author, Elizabeth-Kubler-Ross, has offered insights about living. Here are a couple of them: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within” and “The most beautiful people we have known are those who themselves have known being left out, known suffering, known struggle, known love, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep concern. Beautiful people do not happen”. It’s entirely possible that we could come out of this pandemic better able to manage the difficulties that occur in everyone’s life.

Mille grazie to the following members who put in a good word for us which resulted in two large donations to our organization: Rosanna Aiuppa and Victoria Graffeo. We are also very grateful to Michael Losurdo who spoke on our behalf to the publisher of The Italian Tribune which is one of the largest Italian American newspapers in the United States. That good deed resulted in the publication of a great article about our museum in the Tribune.

Since I am writing this President’s Message in the year 2020, I have no idea on how to plan for 2021 which is fast approaching. I could really use your input so please let me know what you would like to see us sponsor and what will garner your support and/or attendance. Thank you in advance for your help in this endeavor.

STATE OF THE ASSOCIATION & MUSEUM

Due to generous donors and the hard work of our volunteers we were able to pay all our bills in spite of the challenges of the pandemic. I estimate that if we had to pay all our volunteers a salary for the extensive work that they do we would have to come up with an additional $100,000 a year ~ mille grazie to all of our valuable volunteers.

We have had to cancel most of our programs, classes and fundraisers because of the pandemic. In addition, we needed to reduce the hours our museum is open. We have also had very few visitors due to covid19. Since we are not out in the community as in the past we have not been able to obtain many new members who are vital to our future. It is very difficult to be vibrant in the face of these aforementioned challenges. Most non-profits, especially older ethnic groups, face the same problems we encounter. Each of us must do more in light of everything that is happening in our society.

In closing, I want you to know that we are holding on and hopeful that when the pandemic is finally over we will be in a good position to begin again. I need you now more than ever. Your interest, generosity and volunteering are morale boosters. Together, we will be successful in carrying out our important mission. We have accomplished so much; each issue of our newsletter informs you of how much is being done to carry out our mission.

Prof./Cav. Phillip J. DiNovo
 

 


 

President's Message October 2020

We are steadfastly proud that Italian heritage & culture is celebrated during the month of October as has been the case for a good number of years. Our mission to keep alive our Italian heritage and culture in the United States is especially relevant today as it becomes more difficult than in previous years due to assimilation. By working together those of us with like minds can and will make a difference. I urge you to celebrate Italian Heritage & Culture Month with commitment and pride. Please learn more and grow in appreciation of the reasons why it is so very important to honor previous generations by keeping alive our Italian heritage and culture. Our museum and what we do graphically demonstrates our resolve. Thank you for supporting our cause.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the world into a worldwide crisis. We continue to suffer the economic and social consequences from the coronavirus. As we look back at the 40 years of our Association’s existence we begin to realize that it has only been by the grace of God that we have made it this far. As your President I am trying very hard to provide the leadership to cope with the pandemic. Tourism has dried up in New York State, we receive very few visitors to our museum, Gift Shop sales have been dramatically reduced. In comparison, our Second Chance Thrift Shop is doing quite well and we must thank Theresa Viva along with her team of volunteers for their tireless efforts.

We are receiving monthly income from two of three rental spaces. We have only one fund raiser (Columbus Day Raffle) at present, whereas there were many more in previous years. We are extremely grateful for the number of donations that we have received. Being able to pay our bills is of utmost importance right now while we so look forward to starting anew when the pandemic is eventually over. Unfortunately, we have not been able to go out into the community which in turn prevents us from introducing the public to our museum. Since our new member numbers are down we once again remind you that an AIHA&M membership is a great gift that keeps on giving for the entire year; something to keep in mind for that special person on your list.

As a non-profit organization we do our best to avoid political controversy. We are respectful of all races and creeds and fully expect the same in return. Each of us has individual beliefs about various issues facing our nation at this most unusual, trying time. We are members of and network with Italian American organizations across the nation. I try to be a responsible President of our Association and do my very best work. Most Italian American organizations are deeply offended and angered that our Italian heritage and culture are under attack, fueled by malicious, unwarranted lies and massive distortions. We will continue our mission through education by following all of the available evidence and speaking out.

I am glad to be back at the museum carrying out my duties after six weeks of slow recovery from a serious operation. Being able to drive again was a major goal for me. I am very grateful and deeply moved by your prayers, cards, emails and phone calls and sincerely thank each of you. My wonderful volunteers deserve a huge thank you for keeping the museum open while also carrying out all the tasks that have to be accomplished on a regular basis: mowing the grounds, yard work, doing repairs, managing our rental properties, paying our bills, getting the newsletter assembled/mailed and so much more. I know I speak on behalf of our members as well as myself when I say “Mille Grazie” to you all ~ your value to our organization is indeed priceless!

Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo
 


 

President's Message August 2020


Currently, the coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 has been sweeping the globe leading to shelter in place orders and other restrictions on our daily lives. You well know that thousands have died, millions of people are out of work and anxiety levels were and are running high. Our lives have changed dramatically along with the realization that we have little control over much of what is happening. As a result each of us has found a way to cope. Where you reside is the determining factor regarding the extent of the situation in which you find yourself. Because we are in New York State our thrift shop was allowed to open in June and our museum opened just before the Fourth of July. As of now, everything we do must conform to CDC standards and regulations which restrict our ability to fundraise and hold regular events.

I want to thank each of you who, understanding the challenges we faced, sent in a donation to help us pay the many bills that come in the mail each month. Since we do not know when we will be allowed to fully reopen our doors it has been very difficult to make any plans. The responsibility to steer us through this challenge weighs heavy on our shoulders. It appears to be a daunting task, but with your help and support we will succeed.

After reading the following statement, I wanted to share it with you: “Quit griping about your club, if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong”. In our case, the museum is so vitally important that we need to be united even as we acknowledge our individual faults and differences of opinion. The media information imparted daily serves as a constant reminder that we must have a united front in order to preserve our Italian heritage and culture in this country. We can all agree that working together is very crucial to our continuance as a cohesive organization.

As many of you are aware, I had to operate our organization from my home for many years until we finally opened our museum in Albany, New York. Numerous boxes of material were stored in the basement of my home. During this pandemic I have spent many weeks going through those boxes. Even though I threw out a great deal of material, some wonderful treasures were found and saved. The biggest challenge was the dilemma of what to keep and what should be thrown away. I think you would be amazed and very happy to know how much of our Italian American history has been recorded and preserved. A vast majority of what we have in our museum is one-of-a-kind; we are literally running out of space. Our archives are chock full of artifacts, photos, and documents being saved for our benefit and that of future generations.

Just for a minute, think of what would’ve happened if we had not opened our museum or if we were forced to close for some reason. The latter did indeed happen recently if only for a few months and it was most unpleasant. We educate the public about occurrences from our past; i.e., the lynching in the U.S. of fifty Italian immigrants, the bringing of approximately 5,000 children from Italy only to be made into slaves, and so much more that can be seen and read about throughout our exhibits.

Ironically, the pandemic has given many of us a great deal of time to reflect. One thing in particular that comes to mind is the question of what is really important. Another thought is wondering how I am going to spend that precious time. I am sure you could also add to the list.

In closing, with gratitude I want to remind you of the enormous amount of money, time and talent already invested in our organization. We hope you know that your efforts are required now more than ever. All of us need to make a commitment to keep alive those things that we think are important. If you do, everything is going to be alright!

Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo



 In honor of the Italian immigrants who came to the United States of America, we are committed to record and preserve the contributions of our Italian Heritage and culture to our society through our newsletter, cultural programs, activities, exhibits, and outreach programs.