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Sep 25, 2023

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Artifacts Removed After Hurricane Sandy
Return Home To Ellis Island
National Museum of Immigration

New York, NY – The National Park Service announces a major milestone in Ellis Island’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy will be reached on September 10, 2015 when the museum’s exhibit collection is returned to the island from a National Park Service museum storage facility in Maryland.  The date marks the 25th anniversary week of the opening of the immigration museum on Ellis Island to the public.

Approximately half the museum’s collection, comprised of over a million archival documents and thousands of artifacts, was removed after the storm to a museum storage facility in Landover, MD.  Its return has been on hold so that a $39.4 million mechanical and electrical infrastructure project to move these critical systems above flood elevations could be completed.  The new systems will be more efficient and provide more precise humidity controls in the museum. The project is part of a $53 million storm recovery package for the island.

“With our museum environment stabilized and rebuilt for greater resiliency to future storm events, it’s now time to return the artifacts to the cases and exhibit galleries illustrating the Ellis Island immigration story,” said John Piltzecker, Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.

“These personal artifacts, many donated by individual families from across the country, truly bring the immigrant experience to life, and we know visitors will be delighted to see them again on display at Ellis Island,” said Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Installation of the artifacts into the exhibits will begin on September 16th after the collection has been inspected and inventoried.  A team of National Park Service museum staff and volunteers from the metropolitan region will work to return approximately 2000 artifacts to their pre-storm locations within the exhibits.   Full restoration of exhibits is anticipated to be completed by early October.

Artifacts among the collections that are being placed back into the exhibits that evoke the immigrant experience are:

  • Children’s shoes worn by immigrants when they arrived at Ellis Island, including shoes from Austrian, Czech, Chinese, Albanian, and Greek immigrants.
  • Passports, steamship tickets and landing cards carried by the immigrants arriving from many different countries
  • Historic postcards and posters of the many different steamships that brought the immigrants to the Port of New York from foreign ports.
  • The steering wheel, signboard and running lights from the Ferry Ellis Island, which, beginning in 1904, carried staff to and from work on Ellis Island and brought immigrants who had passed inspection there to Manhattan.
  • A wheelchair used in one of the hospitals on the south side of Ellis Island where sick immigrants were treated by doctors and nurses from the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • An immigration inspector’s uniform cap, c. 1900, and   the only remaining Registry Room Inspector’s desks, c. 1900-1910.  Immigrants lined up in the Registry Room or “Great Hall” on the second floor of the Ellis Island immigration station to await their turn to be questioned by uniformed inspectors from the United States Immigration Service.  Inspectors questioned immigrants about their final destinations, job prospects, work skills, etc. to determine whether they would be admitted entry into the United States.


About Ellis Island

Opened on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island became the nation’s premier federal immigration station. In operation until 1954, approximately 12 million immigrants were processed at the station. It has been estimated that more than 40 percent of the United States’ population today can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island.  After 30 years of abandonment, the main building was restored by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and, working in partnership with the National Park Service, opened as a museum in September, 1990.

– National Park Service