• 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 remain closed at this time. The museum's artifacts remain in off-site storage. 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?

Great Hall circa 1900

In its time, Ellis Island was the busiest federal immigration station in America. In 1907, Ellis Island processed 1,004,756 immigrants, a record number for the Immigration stations. April 17, 1907 was the Island's busiest day, when 11,747 immigrants were processed. Today, the US Customs and Border Protection processes over 700,000 visitors daily through 326 official Ports of Entry. More...