Australian-born, Lena Santospirito was a tireless worker for the fledgling Italian community before the Second World War and in the early years of the post war migration boom.
The documents, preserved by the CO-AS-IT Italian Historical Society in Melbourne will be placed on the Internet so they are available to researchers all over the world.
The society is one of eleven community groups to receive heritage funding from the National Library in Canberra, as part of an annual community grants scheme.
Historical Society director, Laura Mecca, says the memory of Mrs Santispirito is still revered by many older members of the Italian community, many of whom made contact with her before they left Italy.
“There is a series of letters which have just been addressed, La Mama de Italiene, Melbourne, and this correspondence reached Mrs Santospirito, and its quite amazing that these people are presenting their personal stories and tragedies and wanting to come out and those that were here too, they just go to her out of sheer desperation because there are problems.”
Mrs Mecca says the Santospirito Collection is a rich resource for university researchers and for more and more families keen to learn more about their ancestors.
“We get a lot of enquires from Italy because many of those immigrants went back in the 1970s when Italy recovered economically so they see on the Internet the names of their fathers and grandfathers are listed so there is a lot of interest in that. We have a lot of interest from anyone studying multiculturalism, political science, immigration, and a whole range of interests.”