The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) showcases a new Pinocchio exhibition

The IAMLA’s original exhibition, A Real Boy: The Many Lives of Pinocchio, explores the cultural origins, adaptations, and enduring appeal of one of the most popular characters in children’s literature. Written in 1883 by Italian author Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio is on view from November 5, 2022 – October 16, 2023, and is as relevant today as back in 1883.

The story has delighted generations and occupies a revered place in the canon of children’s literature. The book has been translated into over 260 languages—a number exceeded only by the Bible. This exhibition presents Collodi’s work and its biblical, literary, and historic influences. Readers are often surprised to discover that the original version of The Adventures of Pinocchio is hardly a cheery children’s story. Rife with dark undercurrents, the work was intended to be a tragedy, designed to warn children about the consequences of bad behavior.

Among the exhibited items is a first-edition Italian-language version of Le avventure di Pinocchio, one of only six copies of the book that remains in the world. Artwork from Walt Disney’s animated movie, vintage toys, costumes by Oscar-nominated designer Massimo Cantini Parrini, Pinocchio ephemera, and publications of the book in languages ranging from Polish to Vietnamese are also showcased. The exhibition, designed to engage visitors of all ages, is a journey into the many incarnations of a beloved character who has left an indisputable mark on our collective imagination.

“Pinocchio is a story for all people, all places, and all times,” comments Marianna Gatto, IAMLA director and co-founder. “It is a story about love, moral identity, redemption, and submitting to the fire of transformation in order to self-actualize.”

A Real Boy: The Many Lives of Pinocchio also examines Pinocchio’s ascent to the status of a cultural icon and his enduring appeal in the postmodern era. Its impact is everlasting, inspiring Hollywood, and musicians alike. The Washington Post uses images of Pinocchio to rate the honesty of statements made by politicians. As a matter of fact, scientists have determined that there is some validity in Collodi’s notion of lies affecting one’s face.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Granada, Spain used thermographic cameras to study how certain behaviors and emotions affect body temperature. They found that facial temperatures increase in areas around the nose and eyes when people are lying, which became known as the “Pinocchio Effect.”

How can we explain Pinocchio’s enduring legacy? Why does this story resonate with people of all ages over a century later, while other literary characters have faded into oblivion? Certainly, Walt Disney popularized the story among modern audiences. People remain taken with Pinocchio more than 80 years after the film’s release. Perhaps it is the story’s universal themes of transformation, sacrifice, and redemption or the commentary it offers on human nature. Like Pinocchio, we are driven by our impulses, emotions, and weaknesses, and are often torn between pleasurable temptations and the desire to act morally.

Philosopher Benedetto Croce opined, “Humanity is the wood in which Pinocchio is carved”. A Real Boy: The Many Lives of Pinocchio is a must-see exhibition for people of all ages and that’s no lie!

The IAMLA explores the Italian American experience in the nation’s multicultural mosaic context. The 6,000-square-foot museum is located in downtown Los Angeles and features an award-winning permanent exhibition. The IAMLA is housed in the Italian Hall, which was constructed in 1908 as a community center, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is among the oldest remaining structures from the city’s historic Little Italy.

The IAMLA is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization; admission to the museum is free. For more information, visit www.iamla.org

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