September marks the 20th anniversary of the historic restoration of Ellis Island and the opening of its Immigration Museum on September 10, 1990, which was funded by the American people through The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. This world class museum has quickly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City, welcoming over 35 million visitors to date.
Just half a mile from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the museum’s exhibits highlight the growth of America during the peak immigration years of 1880-1924. The galleries illustrate the Ellis Island immigrant reception process, the immigrants’ arrival and settlement throughout the United States and feature their “Treasures From Home” – the cherished personal objects, photographs and papers they brought with them from their homelands. And the American Immigrant Wall of Honor celebrates the immigrant experience with the inscription of the names of over 700,000 individuals and families who have been honored by their descendants.
The Ellis Island Oral History Archive, created by the Foundation, contains the reminiscences of over 1700 individuals who either immigrated through or worked at Ellis Island during its heyday as the country’s largest immigration processing center. Excerpts from these oral histories are incorporated throughout the museum’s popular audio tour, which allows visitors to vividly relive the immigrant experience as if they were the “new arrival.”
The American Family Immigration History Center, which opened in 2001, offers easy access to the arrival records of more than 25 million immigrants, travelers and crewmembers who entered through the Port of New York and Ellis Island between 1892-1924, and is also available online at www.ellisisland.org.
The restoration of Ellis Island—the largest in U. S. history—began in 1984 as the second part of a multi-million dollar project by the Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service/U.S. Department of the Interior, which included the Centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. All funds came from private donations, with more than 20 million Americans contributing to the cause.
The Museum is currently undergoing a $20 million expansion to be called The Peopling of America Center. Designed by ESI Design, this exciting new Center will enlarge the story currently told of the Ellis Island Era (1892-1954) to include the entire panorama of the American immigration experience, with exhibits dedicated to those who arrived before Ellis as well as those who arrived after it closed, right up to the present. “The Foundation is proud of what it has accomplished over the last 28 years with the support of the American people in raising over $550 million for the ongoing restoration and preservation of these two most beloved monuments to freedom and opportunity,” said Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. “With the Peopling of America Center scheduled to open in 2012, we will bring the ever-growing story of the populating of America to life, making the Ellis Island Museum both more relevant and a truly living testament to this Nation of Immigrants.”
For more information on the Ellis Island Immigration Museum visit www.ellisisland.org.