A new, temporary exhibition opened recently at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. It focuses on the immigrants’ stories, awash in hopes, uncertainties and, apparently, disinfectant. The new exhibition, which is called “Via Antwerp: The Road to Ellis Island” and will be in place through Sept. 4. It nicely complements the permanent exhibits at Ellis Island, which are heavy on the arrival-and-processing chapter.
The traveling exhibit was created by Antwerp’s Red Star Line Museum and focuses on the experiences of those leaving Europe for the United States. All of the people featured in the new exhibit left Antwerp and traveled to the US on the Red Star Line’s ships.
The harder part of each journey often was getting to Antwerp. Photographs testify to overcrowded conditions on rail cars with trips that could take days, since the emigrants were coming from all over the continent. Reaching the United States, whether at Ellis or another port, was also just a stopping point. The final destination might be a relative or employer halfway across the country.
The Antwerp museum has done a little reverse genealogy, taking the names of some passengers on Red Line ships and trying to trace their descendants.
You can read more in the Red Star Line Museum’s web site at http://www.redstarline.be/en/exhibition/exhibition-antwerp-road-ellis-island.