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Ellis Island Tells the Evolving Story of America
Despite numerous visits to New York City, I had never taken a trip to Ellis Island where 12 million immigrants entered America between 1892 and 1954. The descendants of those immigrants account for almost half of the American people.
Because I visited in February, I was fairly certain that the lines to get on the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ferry would be brisk.
Imagine my horror when I arrived at the dock to find a snaking line so thick it would easily consume the better part of a day. Never have I been so thankful for my CityPASS. With CityPASS, we were whisked to the head of the line, and I could feel the stares of those relegated to waiting in the chilly elements for the next boat … or perhaps the one after that.
Ferry security is very thorough. Pockets must be emptied, and bodies and bags are scanned. The ferry first stops at the Statue of Liberty, and the view of the green lady is nothing short of majestic. But we had set aside our time to explore Ellis Island.
The self-guided museum is in the main building of the former immigration station complex. The displays not only cover the numbers and reasons for coming to America, they addressed the conditions they faced when they arrived. The experience includes artifacts, photographs, interactive displays, oral histories, and temporary exhibits.
One of the stellar features is that visitors can use the computer stations to see if their relatives came through Ellis Island. My daughter, Deanna Nokes, located the ship manifest that recorded the voyage that her great grandfather, Mate Beovich, took from Dalmatia, Yugoslavia. It showed that he arrived from Cherbourg, France, on the Imperator in 1920, sailing on a third-class ticket with 4,594 other passengers.
Ellis Island isn’t limited to looking the European arrivals, also providing exhibits tracking the more-recent influx of immigrants to America from Southeast Asia, Latin America and former Soviet Republics. It’s an expansive, fascinating look at a story in progress, and why Ellis Island is one of New York's top museums.