At the entrance to New York Harbour, north of the Statue of Liberty, another monument is a symbol of the great traditions of freedom and opportunity in America: Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954 this small island was the Immigration Station, the gateway through which 12 million immigrants entered the New World. Today, more than 40% of all living Americans are descendants of the immigrants who came through Ellis Island. Immigrants came from all over Europe. The main groups were the Irish, the Germans, the Italians and the Jews from Eastern Europe. They escaped from extreme poverty, famine, unemployment and religious and racial persecutions. The sight of the Statue of Liberty meant the end of their difficult journey and the hope for a new life. At the same time they feared an uncertain future for themselves and their families. They also feared the registration procedure - a rigorous medical inspection and an aptitude test — they had to pass in Ellis Island as a condition to enter the United States. For these reasons, Ellis Island was known as both the “lsland of Hope” and the “Island of Tears”.
Since September 1990 Ellis Island has become the home of the Immigration Museum. The Museum offers a very interesting view of the immigrants’ experience. There are numerous galleries filled with historic photos, posters and maps which are accompanied by oral histories and immigrant music. There’s also a collection of objects donated by descendants of the immigrants who brought these treasures from their homes to America. These objects include family photos, rare clothing and jewellery. Another very important section, the Learning Cente helps to teach school children about their immigrant heritage.