• Immigrants awaiting inspection in front of Ellis Island's Main Building

    Ellis Island

    Part of Statue of Liberty National Monument NJ,NY

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  • Ellis Island is open on a limited basis while repairs continue.

    Ellis Island has reopened on a limited basis. Due to the nature of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy parts of the historic Main Building and museum, including most of the exhibits and both elevators, remain closed at this time. More »

From Immigration Station to Museum

National Park Service brochure for Ellis Island c. 1990
A National Park Service brochure for Ellis Island c. 1990
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Wicker pocketbook

A wicker pocketbook

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

The transformation of Ellis Island to a museum as the symbol of the isle of hope and tears for immigrants and their descendants.

Following the closing of Ellis Island in November 1954, the facility was abandoned and seemingly forgotten. On October 15, 1965, Ellis Island was proclaimed as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and put under the control of the National Park Service. Rehabilitation work was proposed and began in the 1980s, initially focusing on the conversion of the Main Building into an immigration museum. Opening in September 1990, the major theme was Ellis Island, Isle of hope, Isle of tears for the 12 million immigrants who were processed here. During the rehabilitation, requests were made in the news media for former Ellis Island immigrants to share their immigration experience by recording oral history interviews and donating possessions carried from their country of origin through Ellis Island to the United States. Since the mid-1980s, immigrants, their families and descendents have offered and donated textiles, luggage, and various possessions to the growing museum collection on Ellis Island.

Woman's vest from Macedonia, black with gold flowery trim
A woman's vest from Macedonia
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument
Singer sewing machine from Scotland c. 1880s
A Singer sewing machine purchased and carried to the United States from Scotland c. 1880s
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Did You Know?

passenger manifest

Since the passage of the "Steerage Act of 1819", passenger manifests have been required for all arriving vessels to be delivered to the U.S. Government and reported to Congress. This document, used for inspection at Ellis Island, has become an important starting point in researching family history.