About the Preserve Little Italy Initiative

In 2010, San Diego State University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space (ISYS) and Department of Geography began a collaboration with the Little Italy Association of San Diego (LIA) to research and document the rich history and geographies of San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. A $40,000 grant was secured from the National Park Service through the Preserve America program, with matching funds committed by LIA and the office of County Supervisor Ron Roberts. The long-range goal of this project is to increase opportunities for heritage tourism in Little Italy, with research and documentation representing the first step in this direction.

Geographers at SDSU are also interested in critically examining the ways in which the history and place identity of the neighborhood are understood by those inside and outside of the neighborhood and being sensitive to the emotional geographies of community members. The project will include collection of interviews of people with knowledge of the community’s history, review of existing books and articles about the neighborhood, an inventory of historic structures and sites in the neighborhood, and identification of historic documents, photos and artifacts that can help visitors understand the local history and geography. All of this information will be tied together through mapping, with the goal being to use maps to help visitors navigate through the neighborhood and connect with its history through multimedia resources.

The project is also exciting because it is providing SDSU and local K-12 students with project-based learning experiences and opportunities to engage with the diversity of local neighborhoods and communities. Two Geography Department graduate seminars have incorporated fieldwork for the “Preserve Little Italy” project as part of their curricula.  Local partnerships have been established with High Tech High School and Washington Elementary School.

This program is being facilitated by the Little Italy Association of San Diego, a Non-Profit 501(c)(3).