Location: Liberty Island, New York
Ellis Island is a symbol of America‘s immigrant heritage. For more than six decades - 1892 to 1954 - the immigrant depot processed the greatest tide of incoming humanity in the nation‘s history. Some twelve million people landed here; today their descendents account for almost 40% of the country‘s population.
Opened on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island ushered in a new era of immigration with each newcomer‘s eligibility to land now determined by federal law. The government established a special bureau to process the record numbers that were arriving at the end of 19th century. Fleeing hardships such as poverty, religious persecution, or political unrest in their homelands, they journeyed to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity. More than 70% landed in New York, the country‘s largest port. First and second class passengers were processed on board ship, but third or steerage class were ferried to Ellis Island when they underwent medical and legal examinations in the Main Building.
In recognition of the significant role Ellis Island played in American history, the Main Building was refurbished in time for the immigration depot‘s centennial in 1992. Centerpiece of the restoration project was the construction of the Ellis Island
Immigration Museum. Covering 200,000 square feet, the museum tells the poignant story of the immigrants who entered America through the golden door of Ellis Island.
The museum contains three floors of self guided exhibits and audio/visual displays detailing the history of immigration processing station between 1892 and 1954. You can tour the Great Hall where immigrant legal and medical inspections took place. Be sure to view the artifacts on display: baggage, immigrant clothing and costumes, passports, steamer and railroad tickets, ship passenger manifests, etc. Generally, you should allow 3 hours to tour the museum. The entire museum is accessible for those who are physically challenged.
An Audio Tour through Ellis Island Immigration Museum, retraces the immigrants‘ first steps through this gateway to the New World. It is available at the museum in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Public Tours are periodically conducted by Park Rangers.