The beautifully-restored main building is worthy of a few hours of exploration (the Registry Room with a soaring Guastavino-tiled ceiling is a must-see), but if you have time, take a hard hat tour of the lesser-known hospital complex located on the island’s south side. Closed in 1954, the buildings sat abandoned for 60 years before opening again for tours in their unrestored, crumbling state. The buildings themselves are enough of a draw, but they also serve as the perfect backdrop for an arresting art installation by French artist JR, featuring large-scale photographs from the island’s fascinating history.
“the once gateway to American life”
Ellis Island, now a 27.5-acre site located just minutes off the southern tip of Manhattan Island, New York, is likely to connect with more of the American population than any other spot in the country. It has been estimated that nearly half of all Americans today can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island. Now, nearly a century since the peak years of immigration, Ellis Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the National Park ServiceThe Foundation then turned its attention to the restoration of Ellis Island--the largest historical restoration in the history of the United States. Ellis Island, our most potent symbol of the American immigrant experience, had become sadly deteriorated. Again the American people responded with passion and generosity. When the Island opened in September of 1990--two years ahead of schedule--it unveiled the world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, where some rooms appeared as they had during the height of immigrant processing. Other areas housed theaters, libraries, an oral history recording studio, and exhibits on the immigration experience. In the 1990s, the Foundation restored two more buildings (for a total of 5 buildings saved and restored on Ellis Island), expanding and upgrading the Museum Library and Oral History Studio, and creating a Children’s Orientation Center and the Ellis Island Living Theatre. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has welcomed nearly 40 million visitors since its opening in 1990. Working to promote knowledge of the Island, the Statue, and immigration history, the Foundation has also published and made available to libraries and schools many books and curriculum guides, as well as a CD-ROM produced in collaboration with the History Channel. The Foundation’s current project is a significant expansion of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to be called The Peopling of America® Center. The Center will enlarge the story currently told of the Ellis Island Era (1892-1954) to include the entire panorama of the American immigration experience from this country’s earliest days right up to the present. It is expected to be completed in 2012.
This museum has a couple interesting things, but it is 90% reading and pictures on the wall. The building itself was neat to see, however it wasn't any kind of "experience" It was like reading a textbook and looking at the pictures...for 3 whole floors. Many of the pictures or text is repeated too. It would have been better if they made it into two floors and have some actual room set-ups of how it was at the time. We saw one bunk bed area, which was cool and that was about it.
I recommend visiting the NY Tenement Museum instead.
A worker mentioned many of the Ellis Island museum items were damaged in Hurricane Sandy, so perhaps that is what happened. But I have to admit I was hoping for a better experience.
I always enjoy coming here, it never gets old!
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- Sun - Sat: 8:30 am - 7:00 pm
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- National park