Feature story: from the front page of The National Herald, April 14, 2007!
Greek Museum's Photo Presentation
by Christopher Tripoulas
special to the National Herald
A special power point presentation of Greek Immigrant History in New York will take place at the 67th Street Branch library in Manhattan (328 East 67 Street) this coming Tuesday evening April l7 at 6 pm.
The presentation is using photographs which have been collected over time, providing fascinating insights into the Greek immigrants' early arriaval into the New York area, and their trades, organizations and activities.
The presentation is free and open to the public and will include fascinating information about the Greek work ethnic and family values as well as rags to riches success stories of Greek immigrants.
It is being organized as part of the celebrations for New Yorks' fourth annual immigrant History Week, a citywide celebration honoring the experiences and contributions of immigrants in New York City, established by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004, for the purposes of developing a rich collection of free or low cost programs which build cross cultural understanding between New York's ehtnic communities.
The presentation is being organized by The Greek Museum, a non profit institution which aims to collect, preserve and interpret tangible objects represent Greek American life. The Museum's goal is to raise public awareness of the contributions of immigrant Greeks to American culture.
"This is the second year we will be participating in New Yor City's Immigrant Week," said Museum Co-Founder, Kathy Boulukos.
Last year, the Museum presented "Our Story-Our People" a slideshow narrative at the Mid Mahhttan Libary. This year's presentation "A Journey, A Dream and a Fulfillment - the Story of the Greek American Immigrant in New York" is a narrative hsitory and photographic prsenation of the under documented minority.
The presentation's main objective is to "help raise awareness about the story of Greek immigrants", Mrs. Boulukos said, stressing the necessity and importance of this undertaking "because our history is being lost".
Mrs. Boulukos and Anastasia Nicholas, her co-founder, have been working on making the Museuma reality for the past ten years. "Right now, we're looking for a permanent location in New York City to house the Museum. The problem is finding the right location and raising enough money,", Mrs. Boulukos said.
According to Mrs. Boulukos, the Museum would include exhibition space to showcase permanent and rotating exhibits petaining to the Greek American Immigrant experience, as well as displays of particular interest to children about their forefathers. The permanent exhibition area would showcase embroideries, costumes, jewelry, pottery, household items, photographs and religious objects. The Museum library would house research material regarding entry to America and geneologicl records. Newspapers, books, magazines and manuscripts would be displayed. A section of the Museum would be devoted to oral history, including vignettes of older Greek immgirants speaking about their lives. Additionally, a music history would empahsize the early music of the immgirants.]
The role of ethnic organizations, the church and Greek schools will be a major part of the dislay, Mrs. Boulukos said, showing their value to the life of the Greek Americans. A space for concerts, dance recitals, lectures, recptions and art exhibits will also be incorporated into the eventual site.
As to the level support she has received from the Greek American community, "There has been a good amount of support from the community, but we still have no major donors", Mrs. Boulukos said. Major Hellenic organizations have not yet lent their support to helping the Museum securing a site in New York.
"I sent a letter to SAE (Council of Hellenes Abroad) five years ago, and I received absolutely no response. The y never accepted or declined our proposal. They just didnt reply," she said, but in light of the recent elections and new administration running the SAE regional council in the United States, she is considering an attempt to reestablish contact with SAE's leadership stateside.
Mrs. Boulukos emphasized that the Museum needs to be a community wide effort. "Our communty needs to realize that we have to work together to preserve our heritage", she said, adding that she is not expecting help from Greece or public benefit foundation based in Greece. "But this should be a project accompplished by the Greek American Community, " she said.
There are 24 other ethnic museums in New York, she pointed out, and there are already two Greek museums in the United States, In Chicago and Salt Lake City, citing the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center in Chicago as a source of inspiration.
Anastais Nichalas and I went to Chicago to attend a convention and happened to see a brochure for the Hellenic Museum there. We thought if Chicago could do it, so could New York:", Mrs. Boulukos said, adding that the other Greek museums have been supportive and are anxiously awaiting the official opening of the Greek Museum in New York so that they can have rotating exhibits. "They keep telling us hurry up andget the musuem going, she said.
Asked abou the differences she sees between the Museum she is trying to form in New Yokr and the Greek Museum in Chicago and Salt Lake City, Mrs Boulukos said "Its not a question of how different each Museum will be. We are not competing against each other. Each region has its own story to tell" She cited the different lifestyles of problems facing and types of work available to Greek immgrants throughtout various part of the United Sates.
"The Greeks who went out Wet have a different story to tell than those who came through Ellis Island. They worked primarily on the railroads and in the mines. Each group also had to overcome different kinds of obstacles. Greek s in the West, for instance, had to face the Mormons, who were the dominant group there, while the Greeks in New YOrk had to deal with the Italian patronage system," she said.
The displays will try to provide a cross section of different generations of Greek immigrants to the New York area, she added, and all the periods of Greek immigration would have their place in the Museum.
Mrs. Boulukos described Greek immgrants as "true minorities...they did not come over all together, and noted that the success and prosperity Greeks have enjoys in the US did not come easy. "We forget what the first immigrants went trhough. The prejudice they faced. What it took to run a store, open a business and fight discrimination", Mrs. Boulukos said, underscroving the Grek American community's need to preserve its own unique history. Its not enough to have a parade every year or to have Greek resturants', she said. "And we musn't forget what Greek Americans have contirubted to American society. We have helped make this country a place".
One of the ongoing activities of The Greek Museum is to video tape interviews with various Greek American individuals from all walks of life. Approximately fifty interviews have been conducted and preserved for inclusion in our future library. Some of the people recorded include Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas, Peter Peterson, and Dr. T. Roy Vagelos.
Recently, we interviewed Ambassador Michael Sotirhos who is truly a remarkable gentleman. He discussed his life from his early childhood to his ambassadorial positions, and his work in various businesses. He is tireless, devoted, motivated and determined to preserve his Greek heritage. A true New Yorker, he was born in “Hell’s Kitchen”. He attended public elementary schools, Stuyvesant High School, and graduated from City College.
Perhaps the highlight of his life has been his presidential appointments as ambassador to two countries. First, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to Jamaica, where he served for six years. Immediately after that, he was appointed by President George Bush, Sr. to Greece. He was the first American of Greek descent to serve in this capacity in Greece. In both countries, his signature style of reaching out to the local people proved to be one of his key successes. In both countries, he attended a different church every week to interact with the people.
His service to the Greek Orthodox Church started in his childhood, where he attended Evangelismos on the West side of New York. He was an altar boy, was active in GOYA, the Parish Council and eventually served as President of that community. He later joined the Holy Trinity Cathedral on East 74 Street, and served in the Parish Council and as President as well. He continues to work for the Greek Orthodox Church and many Greek organizations, including the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.
Michael Sotirhos, A "diplomat for life, full of life and vigor!
Edition 6 Winter 2006
Do you know someone who would be a good person to interview?
If so, contact us!
In forthcoming editions, we will publish other interviews with various members of the Hellenic community
Organization News: We will publish news of interest pertaining to the Immigrant story in future issues.
Have Computer…Have Screen…Have a Mike…Will Travel”
The Co-Founders of The Greek Museum, the Center for Greek American Heritage were very busy this past year presenting their program entitled “Our Story-Our People” to hundreds of people at more than a dozen venues. All audiences were eager to hear the information and responded favorably to the photo narrative that traces the history of the arrival of the early Greek immigrants to the New York area. Many cried out as they recognized familiar faces or places in the old photographs.
One highlight of the traveling program was that it was presented in conjunction with the New York City “Immigrant History Week”. This week is set aside by the Mayor to celebrate and recognize the contribution that immigrant groups have made in New York city. “Our Story-Our People” was given at the NYC Public Library at 42 Street and the Astoria Branch of the Public Library in Queens. In addition, it was also presented at City hall during the NYC comptroller’s celebration of Greek Independence Day.
These programs are important for the development of The Greek Museum, the Center for Greek American Heritage, because the goal is to raise awareness to the fascinating story of this immigrant group. The program uses old photographs and documents that have been copied. The narrative traces the story of the people using research information and pictures to tell the story of the impact of these immigrants. In addition, it focuses on the importance of preserving ones own photographs and various artifacts about one’s own family roots. By presenting this program, the mission of the museum is told and hopefully, this will gain support from the public to build a museum in the very near future.
If you have an organization that would like to see the program, call the founders, A. Nicholas (20l 944 4127) on left and K. Boulukos (516 868 4092) on the right.
Please note: Lectures are given to foundations, fraternal organizations, church groups, and civic councils. Contact us for addtional information. firstname.lastname@example.org