Planning a Field Trip

"Island of Hope, Island of Tears" (documentary film)

Students of all ages can watch "Island of Hope, Island of Tears". This award-winning documentary film reveals why and how millions of immigrants journeyed across the world to Ellis Island, hoping for a better life for themselves and their descendants. The free program, which includes a 5-minute ranger talk followed by the 30-minute documentary, begins every half hour and is strictly limited to 140 people; no standing. Other unreserved times may also be available.

Teachers: You can also access "Island of Hope, Island of Tears" at The film is available in different formats so it can be easily downloaded in the classroom as either a pre- or post-visit activity.


Audio Tour (available for both Ellis and Liberty Islands)

Students of all ages can learn about the Ellis Island Immigration Museum exhibits and/or the Statue of Liberty by listening to the audio tour. At the Statue, the audio tour is available for both the outside grounds and pedestal/museum access. The tour is available in English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. You may purchase the audio tour along with your ferry tickets in advance or during your visit. (Nominal fee - discounts available for school groups)


Self-guided Tour

Students and chaperones may explore the museum's three floors of exhibits on their own. Children and adults must stay together at all times throughout the musem. You can learn about the history of Ellis Island and the lives of the millions of people who were processed here. Pick up a map and brochure at the park Information Desk. You can view the galleries in any order or begin on the third floor, continue on the second floor, and conclude your tour on the first floor. Make sure to visit the Registry Room and the exhibit entitled "Through America's Gate." A package of material for a teacher-led curriculum-based program through the Ellis Island exhibits is currently under development.

Here is a summary of the main exhibits at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum:

  • "The Peopling of America": (1st Floor) Focuses on many of the statistics of immigration. Who came from where and when?
  • The Great Hall (also known as the Registry Room): The main room used for the processing of immigrants, and the room most often seen in movies and historical photographs.
  • "Through America's Gate": (2nd Floor) Perhaps one of the most interesting exhibits at Ellis Island - leading visitors through the process of arriving at Ellis Island, being examined, and then leaving or being detained.
  • "Peak Immigration Years": (2nd Floor) The historical and cultural context in both Europe and the United States during the peak years of immigration: 1890 to 1924. Exhibits discuss why people came to America, what they encountered when they got here, and how they influenced and/or assimilated into American culture.
  • "Ellis Island Chronicles": (3rd Floor) Models and pictures of the constant changes in the size and use of Ellis Island, and the architectural history of the island.
  • "Treasures from Home": (3rd Floor) A display of some of the things people brought with them to America through Ellis Island.
  • "Restoring a Landmark": (3rd Floor) Pictures and displays of Ellis Island before it was restored.
  • Restored Dormitory Room: (3rd Floor) A restored room that housed immigrants detained at Ellis Island due to legal problems.

Last updated: October 15, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
Statue of Liberty National Monument

New York, NY 10004


(212) 363-3200

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