Via Antwerp: The Road to Ellis Island

Red Star Line Shipping Buildings Transformed to Tell the Story of European Emigration
May 23, 2016

On May 27, 2016 the Ellis Island Immigration Museum will debut a traveling exhibition from its European Counterpart in Antwerp, Belgium, the Red Star Line Museum. “Via Antwerp: The Road to Ellis Island” chronicles the timeless story of European emigration with powerful testimonies, artifacts, and artwork. The show is being mounted in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service, which protects and supports Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Between 1897 and 1934, nearly two million people passed through the humble structures of the Red Star Line shipping company on journeys to new lives across the Atlantic. For many – including such famous passengers as Irving Berlin – the gateway to America was through the halls of New York’s Ellis Island.

Beyer Blinder Belle was the architect for the design and creation of both the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Red Star Line Museum, which together bookend and document the experience of brave individuals who left their homeland from Antwerp and arrived at Ellis Island to stake out new lives in America.

The Red Star Line Museum is a contemporary museum created from the original historic buildings of the Red Star Line shipping company. The restored Red Star Line buildings are themselves the fundamental artifacts of the Museum, and are designed to preserve the raw quality of the structures and replicate the powerful emotional journey of the emigrants who passed through them. A new observation tower, entrance, and intertwined circulation elements weave the original warehouses into a newly imagined state-of-the-art museum of emigration that is as every bit contemporary as it is historic.

We invite you to take a closer look at their transformation in the following slideshow of pre- and post-restoration views:

Overall view of the three-building complex, prior to restoration.

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More about the exhibition: “Via Antwerp: The Road to Ellis Island”

New York Times Exhibition Review: “Antwerp to Ellis Island: Journey of a Lifetime”