Special Exhibit Celebrates John Muir and the National Park Service Centennial

John Muir Exhibit Poster: Exhibit Information and B&W Photo of John Muir in Yosemite

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News Release Date: April 1, 2016

Contact: Jerry Willis, 646-356-2105

Contact: Sarah Roberts, 202-255-8332

The "Life and Legacy of John Muir" will be the theme for the 15th annual Tartan Day celebration at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Conservationist, author, and environmental activist, John Muir is renowned as the "father of America's National Parks." The exhibition runs from 6 April –5 September 2016 as part of the National Park Centennial.

"We're proud that the National Park Service/Ellis Island has chosen Tartan Day on Ellis Island to serve as the springboard for their centennial celebration," said Robert Currie, chairman of Tartan Day on Ellis Island. "This event provides an important opportunity to recognize the vast contributions of Scots and Scottish-Americans to the development of the United States."

The exhibit traces Muir's remarkable life journey from his days exploring the moors, mountains, and shoreline surrounding his childhood home in Dunbar, Scotland, to his lasting legacy as America's first passionate conservationist and the father of the American national parks.

The exhibit is produced by the Clan Currie Society with the support of a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel including participation from the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA, the John Muir Birthplace Trust in Dunbar, Scotland, the Sierra Club in San Francisco, CA and the John Muir Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is one of the principal Scottish heritage events in the United States. Describing the program, noted Scottish author and editor of Scotland Magazine, Roddy Martine reported that of all the Tartan Day events held in the United States, the Ellis Island observance has, "stood out as a beacon of what USA Tartan Day is all about: the emigrant ancestors of ordinary Americans who over three centuries crossed the Atlantic Ocean to create the world's greatest democracy."

Of the approximately 12 million immigrants who came to America through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954, some half million were Scots.

The Clan Currie Society began its successful collaboration with the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 2002 in the coordination and sponsorship of the first Tartan Day celebration. Clan Currie and the National Museums of Scotland joined forces to host the traveling exhibit, "Home and Away: Highland Departures and Returns."

The following year, Clan Currie returned to Ellis Island, bringing with them four of Scotland's top crafters for a hands-on demonstration of their unique talents. The 2003 event was captured in the form of a documentary film entitled, "The Crafter's Song." Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Cliff Robertson, "The Crafter's Song" is the first documentary produced in America about National Tartan Day. The video can be viewed on Clan Currie's YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/clancurrie.

In the following years, the Tartan Day program has presented a wide range of exhibits ranging from the "Jacobites and America," to "Captain Kidd and the Hangman's Noose." The 2012 program –"A Celebration of Tartan" –became the world's largest Tartan Day program. Organizers are certain the 2016 program will far exceed the 2012 record of over 70 thousand visitors.

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is the country's leading Tartan Day celebration. For additional information, visit: www.tartandayonellisisland.com or at www.facebook.com/TartanDayonEllisIsland.

About John Muir

John Muir, the legendary wilderness explorer and writer who served as the first President of the Sierra Club, has achieved something of mythic proportions, over 150 years after his birth. His life, work, and vision have inspired countless Americans to appreciate and protect the natural world.

Born in Scotland, April 21, 1838, John Muir immigrated to the United States with his family when he was eleven years old. He traveled to California in the spring of 1868 and explored the high country of the Sierra Nevada, making California his life-long home. He also traveled widely in Alaska and throughout the American West, writing numerous books and articles describing natural wonders and arguing for the need to preserve wilderness.

When Muir traveled around the world in his later years, he inspired people all over the globe to protect places of special beauty and wildness. His life is celebrated by the existence of Yosemite National Park, which he was instrumental in establishing in 1890. In 1976, the California Historical Society voted Muir the greatest Californian in the state's history. Geographic place names for Muir exist in Alaska, California, Florida, Washington State, Wisconsin, and in his birthplace, Dunbar, Scotland.

Documentary film maker Ken Burns said of Muir, "As we got to know him... he ascended to the pantheon of the highest individuals in our country;I'm talking about the level of Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, and Thomas Jefferson, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jackie Robinson -- people who have had a transformational effect on who we are."

About the National Park Centennial and National Park Week

The National Park Service is celebrating 100 years of sharing America's special places and helping Americans make meaningful connections to nature, history and culture. 

The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island are playing a meaningful role in honoring the Centennial of the National Park Service by offering many new public programs and exhibits celebrating the first hundred years and connecting with the next generation of leaders so they may lead us well into our next century. The national parks are America's best idea and we want all Americans to help us celebrate these special places.

National Park Week, April 16 to 24, 2016, is America's largest celebration of national heritage. It's about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations and enhancing America's best idea—the national parks! It's all happening in your national parks. The National Park Service is once again partnering with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, to present National Park Week, a presidentially proclaimed celebration of our national heritage

About Tartan Day

Tartan Day is a celebration of Scottish heritage held on April 6, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in Scotland in 1320.The Declaration is in the form of letters submitted to Pope John XXII intended to ask his support in the preservation of Scotland as an independent state. Letters were written to the pope by King Robert the Bruce, the Scottish Clergy and the Scottish Nobles.

Americans of Scottish descent have played a vibrant and influential role in the development of the United States. From the framers of the Declaration of Independence to the first man on the moon, Scottish-Americans have contributed mightily to the fields of the arts, science, politics, law, and more. Today, over eleven million Americans claim Scottish and Scots-Irish roots —making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the United States. These are the people and accomplishments that are honored in the United States on National Tartan Day, April 6th. Thousands of Scots-Americans found ways to observe the first Tartan Day in churches, on village greens, at Scottish festivals, at social gatherings, and in the home.

The first National Tartan Day in the United States (inspired by Canadian National Tartan Day Celebrations) was observed on April 6, 1997. Previously, there had been observances by individual states, counties and other regional entities, but the year 1997 was the first time the observance swept across the nation. The United States Senate Resolution declaring April 6th as Tartan Day appeared in the Congressional Record on April 7, 1997. 

Last updated: January 18, 2021

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