Friday, August 09, 2013

Carnegie Museum to host Aug. 13 reception for "Last Days of Italian Hall: Photographs of Calumet's Italian Hall 1981-1988" by Eric Munch

Photographer Eric Munch is pictured here in the Italian Hall Ballroom, Calumet, in September 1983, before the building was demolished. Munch is exhibiting a series of his photos of Italian Hall at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton and will speak at a reception on Aug. 13. (Photo © 2013 and courtesy Eric Munch. Reprinted with permission.)

HOUGHTON -- The Carnegie Museum in downtown Houghton will host a reception for "Last Days of Italian Hall: Photographs of Calumet's Italian Hall 1981-1988" by local photographer Eric Munch from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13. Photographer Munch will speak at 6:30 p.m.

On Christmas Eve 1913, families of striking copper miners gathered in Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan, for a holiday party. According to several witnesses, someone yelled, "Fire!!" -- and, in the ensuing panic to flee the second story ballroom, 73 people, 59 of them under age 17, were crushed to death in the stairway.

"Last Days of Italian Hall" is a series of 21 photographs, taken by Eric Munch, professional photographer, of Italian Hall before, during, and after its 1984 demolition. Munch first visited the building as a child in 1967 while in Calumet for a family reunion. Though his grandfather and great aunt had attended the 1913 Christmas party, he was at first unaware of the tragic history of the building.

After moving to Calumet in 1980, Mr. Munch photographed the exterior of Italian Hall on several occasions and in 1981 and 1983 he was able to photograph inside the building. In 1984 he documented the demolition and the crowd that gathered to watch as the building was torn down.

Other exhibits at Carnegie Museum

Other exhibits currently at the Carnegie Museum include the following:

"Rural Reflections: Finnish American Buildings and Landscapes in Michigan's Copper Country" -- photographs by Ryan Holt with Historical Narrative by Arnold Alanen.

"Family Ties: Memorials to Those Lost in the 1913 Italian Hall Tragedy" -- an exhibit by the Houghton Keweenaw County Genealogical Society.

"From the Old School: Memories from the Old Houghton High School 1923 - 1989" -- oral histories about life in "the Old School."

The Carnegie Museum is on the corner of Huron and Montezuma in Houghton, Mich. Regular hours are Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. The museum is open to the public and there is no entry fee. For more information email history@cityofhoughton.com or call (906) 482-7140.

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