Ellis Island Today
The opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 1990 fulfills a dream shared by thousands of people who contributed to its creation. The museum is housed within Ellis Island's restored main building , a place that still evokes the presence and hopes of travelers who once walked its halls. Today's visitors can follow the immigrants' footsteps from the ferry slip into the main building, and they can try to imagine the feelings of the immigrants as they climbed the stairs to the Registry Room, the spacious hall where thousands were examined each day. The historic space marked a momentous point of departure in the lives of the immigrants, most just weeks away from the old country and about to enter the New World.
Within the museum, their story unfolds. The exhibits not only document Ellis Island's role in immigration history but also view it in the context of its time. Historic photographs, steamship tickets, a wall of passports, ethnic theater posters, citizenship papers, clothing, and other personal items brought by the newcomers help convey a board diversity of experiences. The imigration story is futher expanded in an exhibit of three-dimensional graphics that explores the peopling of America and world migration trends over four centuries.
MetaForm Incorporated spent years conceptualizing, researching, curating, and designing the permanent exhibits for the museum. Its curators launched an ambitious effort, researching archives as well as libraries and historial societies, canvassing fles markets, contacting private collectors and dealers, and, most importantly, publishing appeals to the American public. The museum's outreach found a generous and constructive response. People from all over the country rumaged from attics and closets, looking for mementos that told their own family histories of passage to America, and they were willing to share those stories with others through the museum. Their contributions and words, incorporated into the exhibits, give individual identities to a subject often discussed in terms of masses, and impart a sense of history as human experience. (Ivan Chermayeff, Fred Wasserman, Mary J. Shapiro, 1991)