Why would anyone in his right mind want to spend endless hours rummaging through piles of discarded
papers and dusty old books in dingy, dark storage cubicles, when just outside stand some of the most beautiful Italian
Renaissance buildings and breathtaking landscapes?
The answers to this question involve a long series of fortunate circumstances that resulted in many contacts with
Italian scientists and with Italy itself. The opportunity to work with Professor Enrico Fermi and his colleagues early in
my career was very influential in developing my admiration for their ability and their fresh approach to science.
The wonderful discovery of a new and different humanistic culture occurred when I attended a Fulbright
indoctrination period in Perugia, Italy. This led to four decades of collaboration with colleagues in physics at the
University of Padua.
The collecting of Fascist documents is a continuation of an earlier and ongoing interest in Italian culture at the height
of its glory, the Renaissance period. My specific interest in the modern Fascist era came about because I could not
reconcile the inconsistency between the humanistic and individualistic character of the Italian people of today with their
apparent acceptance and participation in the Italian Fascist movement. I wanted to understand this enigma particularly
from the standpoint of everyday life. A search for this understanding and the enjoyment of discovery were the major
factors that supplied the motivation for manuscript hunting. I must confess that the pleasures of collecting must be
thrown into the pot as well.
During a vacation on the Adriatic, an unexpected discovery of several newspapers from the Fascist period found in a
small hole-in-the-wall newsstand stimulated my interest. This suggested that these seemingly unimportant
documents could be found in junk shops, flea markets, and antique shops. From that moment onward the hunt was
on. It took a long time to focus on a theme for collecting. Only a few items from this period were listed in rare book
catalogues, and those were expensive. Generally they were documents associated with important officials in the
Fascist government. On the other hand, it soon became apparent that indeed there was a lot of material available on
daily life under Fascism if one only took the time to search in these unconventional places. So began some of my
most happy and rewarding hours of discovery: the discovery of documents and of new friendships outside of science. As
time passed by, it also became clear that much of this material was being destroyed, partially from neglect and
partially from the desire to forget the events of that period. This also served to increase my ardor for collecting and
preserving these documents. In spite of the losses over time, I suspect that there is still a vast amount of material
waiting to be discovered; so the mania comes back again and again. With a bit of good luck, soon I will be on my way
back to Italy to begin new searches and to make new friends.
This exhibit would not have materialized without encouragement, enthusiasm, and help from friends and colleagues.
Sig. D. Nogaroto of Padua, a manuscript hunter "par excellence," shared with me his enthusiasm for the chase, his broad
knowledge of Italian culture, and many hours of communion over cups of espresso. His contribution has been a major
one. I wish to thank John Tedeschi for sharing with me many hours talking about Italian life and culture. It was his
encouragement that initiated this exhibit. His firsthand knowledge of life under Italian Fascism and his erudition made
his contribution especially valuable. His aid in the selection and in the description of the documents was especially
appreciated. It has been a great pleasure to work with John Tortorice in the development of this exhibit. It would not
exist were it not for his devotion and hard work in its preparation. My special thanks go to Stanley Payne for his lucid yet
succinct introduction. I am also greatly indebted to Robin Rider and her staff for their generous support and