The Ellis Island Museum


The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is a major historic site in New York City. It is situated in the main building on Ellis Island , in New York Harbor. It draws more than 2 million visitors every year. This museum is dedicated to the history of immigration in the US, and it contains records of 22 million immigrants who traveled from different parts of the world to start a new life in the United States.

Ellis Island was first owned by the American Indians, who called it “Gull Island” . At that time, it was just a small island with about 3 acres of land. In 1628, the island was bought by a Dutch man named Michael Paauw, who changed its name to “Oyster Island”. It became a British property in 1664, and it was renamed “Gibbet Island”, because it was used as a place of execution for pirates and criminals. On the 20th of January, 1785, the island was acquired by a man named Samuel Ellis; and it became known as Ellis Island since that time. The island was sold to the state of New York in the year 1808, and it was transformed into a fort.

It was in 1890 that the government decided that Ellis Island should be used as the immigration station of New York. Landfill was brought in and new docks were added to expand the size of the island. After all the buildings were constructed, the immigration station opened its doors to receive immigrants on the 1st of January, 1892. Soon, immigrants from across the Atlantic as well as other parts of the world started to arrive in Ellis Island in great numbers. This would go on until 1924, when a new immigration act was passed to restrict the number of immigrants coming to the US. In 1955, the immigration station in Ellis Island was closed. Ten years later, President Lyndon Johnson officially announced that Ellis Island had become a National Monument . The island was made a public attraction in 1976, and the main building and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum were opened to the public in 1990.

The Ellis Island Museum provides extensive information about the role of Ellis Island in the history of immigration in the US, as well as stories and records of the 22 million courageous immigrants who left their homelands to start a new life in America. The museum features a wide variety of exhibits, ranging from artifacts and prints to videos and interactive displays. These exhibits cover a total area of 40,000 square feet, and they are located in the Main Building. The Main Building itself is a great attraction; it is a splendid French Renaissance building that was constructed in 1900.

The major highlight of the Ellis Island Museum is the American Family Immigration History Center . This is the place where visitors can do a people search for the immigrants who entered the US through Ellis Island between the years 1892 and 1924. More than 25 million records can be accessed in this research facility, and these records are divided into 11 different categories. Visitors are advised to gather some information about their ancestors before they perform a search. Such information may include the full name of the immigrant, age, nationality, race, religion, year of arrival, port of departure, and name of ship.

Another highlight of the museum is the American Immigrant Wall of Honor . This exhibit is set up in the outdoors, and it shows records of immigrants who arrived in the US at Ellis Island as well as other points of entry. The Wall bears inscriptions of more than 700,000 names of immigrants, and more names are being added from time to time.

There is also an interesting theatrical presentation at the Ellis Island Museum. A play entitled Taking a Chance on America: Bela Lugosi’s Ellis Island Story will be presented from the 25th of April to the 5th of September. It gives an account of the experience of iconic actor Bela Lugosi when he first entered the US as an immigrant. The play was created by playwright Aurorae Khoo, and it runs for 30 minutes. Admission fee is $6.00 per person.

Other exhibits that are of interest in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum include the Baggage Room, Registry Room, Peopling of America , Peak Immigration Years, Dormitory Room, Treasures from Home, and others. Admission to the museum is free.