• 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 »

History of Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954

Patinaed copper roof cap from pavilion between Kitchen & Laundry Building and Powerhouse

A roof cap from the pavilion of the corridor in between the Kitchen and Laundry Building and the Powerhouse/Ferry Building

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

The history and use of Ellis Island as an immigration station and hospital from 1892 to 1954
The architectural history of the construction of the Ellis Island immigration station is extensively represented in the museum archives and library collections which house numerous reports, monographs and documents containing the original design and construction of the buildings, hospitals and support structures, and all the subsequent modifications and restorations on the buildings to the present. Documentation on the rehabilitation of all the buildings and fund raising efforts by the two NPS partners, Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and Save Ellis Island are included in the museum archives and library.

During rehabilitation of the architectural structures on Ellis Island, actual building components, such as the decorative copper flashing and drainage downspout, that are unique to the site or a time period are collected when the features have both interpretive, exhibit value and use as the template for future restoration or reconstruction of buildings.

Downspout from Ellis Island c. 1930-1939
Downspout c. 1930-1939
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Brown pill bottle for Public Health hospital

A pill bottle for the Public Health Service hospital, c. 1950

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Attention is also given to the administrative history and official daily activities of Ellis Island when it was in operation as an immigration station focusing on the public health, medical and legal inspection policy for immigrants conducted by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the United States Public Health Service. Public Health Service work on the Ellis Island is represented in the museum collection by items such as plates and medicine bottles found on site in the hospital buildings.

Oval plate used by Food Services on Ellis Island
A plate used by Food Services on Ellis Island
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Some of the medical personnel employed on the island gave oral histories, diaries and photographs to the museum and this material is available for research in the museum archives and museum collection.

Nurse outside Ellis Island contagious disease ward with patients
A nurse, outside of the contagious disease ward, with some patients
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Black U.S. Immigration Service inspector's hat

A United States Immigration Service inspector's hat

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Immigration processing on Ellis Island left an indelible mark on all immigrants, from their arrival to, hopefully, their departure from the island to new lives in the United States. An attempt is made for the museum to acquire artifacts that were associated with this process. Immigration Service uniforms, Inspection Cards and literacy test cards developed in response to the 1917 Immigration (Literacy) Act tell the story of the history of the immigrant experience on Ellis Island.

Inspection card from S.S. Antonia, 1925
An inspection card from the S.S. Antonia, February 5, 1925
National park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Literacy test card from U.S. Government Printing Office c. 1920s
A literacy test card from the United States Government Printing Office, c. 1920s
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

Immigration processing on Ellis Island went into decline after the passage of the 1924 Quota Act which imposed strict laws on immigration. The work done on Ellis Island after this Act focused more on detaining and the deportation of people from the United States.

Detention sign displayed on Ellis Island
A sign displayed on Ellis Island
National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM
Chunk of graffiti drawn on plaster walls of Ellis Island

Graffiti drawn on the plaster walls of Ellis Island

National Park Service, Statue of Liberty NM

People held in detention throughout the history of Ellis Island often expressed their feelings by writing on the walls of their rooms. Some of this graffiti is preserved and documented in the museum collection.


Did You Know?

Guastavino ceiling Ellis

The Guastavino Ceiling in the Great Hall: Rafael Guastavino Moreno (1842 –1908) was a Spanish architect and builder. He created a "Tile Arch System" patented in the United States in 1885 used for constructing robust, self-supporting arches and architectural vaults using interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar, it is found in some of the most prominent Beaux-Arts landmarks across the United States