Ellis Island—the place we know so well from historical novels and school lessons—the place we don’t know at all.
Just a building on an island. What’s the big deal?
Plug in the headset for your personal guided tour.
The big deal you’ll find, as you listen to the voices on the tape, is the heartfelt emotion, the courage, and the strength of the immigrants arriving in this new land; many not understanding or speaking English.
– I arrived with my 3 young children to meet my husband. The immigration officer asked if I was married. Imagine asking question like that.
– I didn’t recognize my husband when I finally saw him. The children hid behind me. He had shaved his beard. I had never seen his naked face before.”
– My grandmother put me on the train in Italy. I was 12 years old. She set me up on the train and said I’ll be right back. I never saw her again. The boat trip over was an adventure. Ellis Island was an adventure. I was 12. To a boy of that age it was all an adventure. (Narrated by the man who lived it when he was in his 80s)
– I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. I learned three things after I arrived. The streets were not paved with gold. The streets were not paved at all. I was expected to pave them.
You’ll be teary at the displays—sewing machines, musical instruments, the impossibly small suitcases that carried prized and scanty possessions. Imagine your life packed up in one little case and leaving all that was familiar for the unknown. The courage it must have taken.
Follow this trip with a visit to the Tenement museum on the lower east side. When the museum was being set up, an old lady came along and said she had lived there as a child. She donated personal items to the museum and did a narration for them.
Both sites are so well done you will feel like you have time travelled.