The park's museum collection represents both the cultural and natural resources of Liberty and Ellis Islands. All items in the museum collection are documented in the computerized database of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior Collection Management System (ICMS). The guidelines used to determine which items to accept for the museum collection are outlined in the park's Scope of Collections Statement. To understand the full scope of this museum collection on the website, items are grouped according to their relationship with the history, use and cultural meaning of Liberty and Ellis Islands.
A good part of the museum collection is archeology, items that were found in situ on both islands and waterways. In this large collection are items that are the product of the Native American presence on the islands as well as the subsequent multiple uses of the islands and the New York harbor location by Europeans settlers and Americans. Included is the early military use of both Liberty and Ellis islands discussed in detailed monographs based on extensive studies and the archaeological excavation of artifacts from Fort Wood and Fort Gibson.
Ellis Island as an immigrant station and hospital from 1892 to 1954 is represented in the museum collection with items that include architectural structures, documents and photographs, and artifacts used in the processing, medical care and housing of the thousands of immigrants that arrived on the island. The period of decline and rise of Ellis Island from an immigrant station to a government and military oriented facility, especially during World War I and World War II is represented in the collection. The most recent use of the island and its buildings is the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration as told by artifacts and archives related to the planning, fund raising, restoration and continued operation as a popular attraction for millions of visitors a year. The museum collection is also a source for information on animals that once inhabited both islands, and also native and non-native plant life that still grows there.
Last updated: February 10, 2018