On June 18, 2012, Louisville lost a particularly wonderful citizen: Helen Mazzoli. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mazzoli as the University Archives & Records Center worked with her husband, Congressman Romano (Ron) Mazzoli, to process his papers and renovate our reading room in his honor. She was the kind of woman you meet and think, “Wow. I want to be like her when I grow up” — even if you are, technically, already well past that mark.
As part of the Mazzoli Papers Project, we conducted a series of oral history interviews with the Congressman’s staff and colleagues, as well as with his family. I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. Mazzoli in January 2011. She deserved a far better interviewer, but she was a very gracious interviewee. While I enjoyed hearing about her work on Congressman Mazzoli’s campaigns, their life together while he was in Congress, and their time at Harvard after he left politics, my favorite story concerned her going to Hollywood at the age of three to audition for the movies. I won’t relate the entire story, as her interview is now available online, so you can hear her tell the story herself.
That is one of the beauties of oral history: hearing her tell her own story is far better than reading my words. And her voice, her inflection, her way of telling that story, is captured forever in this recording. Knowing that I’m helping to preserve this memory – and making it available to the public – is one of the best parts of my job as an archivist.
Anyone who was on the fourth (okay, and third) floor of Ekstrom Library on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 8 knew something was up. This area — normally known for its silence — was packed full of people who gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Romano L. Mazzoli Reading Room in the University Archives and Records Center. A native Louisvillian and alumnus of the Brandeis School of Law, Romano (Ron) Mazzoli represented Kentucky’s Third Congressional District for 24 years, from 1971 until 1995. We also opened his papers to researchers and launched an online oral history collection focusing on the Congressman, his life and career.
The reading room includes exhibits focusing on Congressman Mazzoli, which can be enjoyed anytime between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm Monday-Friday. A companion exhibit showcases Louisville’s Italian American community. The Italian American Association (IAA) has been a generous supporter of the Archives’ work on the Congressman’s papers, and we are working with the IAA to collect materials that document the lives of Italian Americans in Louisville. If you are interested in making a donation, please give us a call at 852-6674!
The Congressman’s papers themselves fill 633 boxes (that’s nearly 700 feet of shelf space). They document his campaigns as well as his time in office, including his work on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. They also tell the story of a Congressman who placed a very high value on being accessible and helpful to his constituents. A detailed description of the papers is available online (http://uofl.me/lib-mazzoli), and the papers themselves can be accessed in the Archives on the fourth floor of Ekstrom Library.
In addition, we conducted 66 hours of oral history interviews with the Congressman, his colleagues, staffers, campaign volunteers and family. These interviews complement the papers, giving life to the official record and telling stories that simply aren’t captured on paper. These are being made available online via the University Libraries’ Digital Collections (http://uofl.me/lib-mazzoli2).
So come take a look at these new resources – whether in person or virtually!