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Immigration

The Empire State has been at the center of the American immigrant experience.  As the point of entry for millions of arriving people, the New York City skyline was often the first sight these new Americans would see.  In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was officially opened and dedicated, with Emma Lazarus's poem, engraved on a plaque at the statue's base, promising hope and freedom to the world's poor and downtrodden.  Immigration historic sites display the important way that newly arrived Americans have contributed to our state's cultural and economic growth. 

Below are ideas to help you get started on your Immigration Path Through History!

Long Island:

- In its state-of-the-art museum, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center Of Nassau County in Glen Cove presents a detailed and comprehensive chronicle of the Holocaust through multimedia displays, artifacts, archival footage and testimonies from local survivors and liberators.  The permanent exhibition includes a focus on the aftermath of Nazism, emphasizing the issues of displaced persons, emigration and post-genocide justice.

Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center 
Find other exciting attractions in the Long Island region.

New York City:

- The permanent exhibit Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights traces the evolution of the borough into the place we know today, including items relating to Brooklyn's diverse immigrant populations, capturing the complexity and dynamism of the process of inventing Brooklyn.

-  The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor was originally given as a celebration of American freedom following the abolition of slavery, but it came to be associated with immigration as new arrivals gazed upon her torch when arriving to the U.S.  Visitors today can explore New York's heritage as the gateway for the world's "huddled masses yearning to be free" by visiting the statue. 

- It has been estimated that nearly half of all Americans today can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island. Now, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the National Park Service. The museum's exhibits include artifacts, photographs, displays and oral histories.  An archive of more than 25 million passenger arrival records and 900 ship pictures circa 1892-1924 allows guests to explore their own family's arrival in America. 

- The Museum of Chinese in America in Chinatown is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.  Its core exhibit, With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America, presents the diverse layers of the Chinese American experience, while examining America's journey as a nation of immigrants. The surrounding Chinatown neighborhood, long known for its Chinese ethnic cuisine, food stores and tourist shops, is also significant for its association with US immigration from in the 19th and 20th centuries.    

- The Lower East Side Tenement Museum preserves and interprets the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives in the Lower East Side, America's iconic immigrant neighborhood. Through its tours of the tenement building at 97 Orchard Street, home to generations of working class immigrants between 1863 and 1935, the museum forges emotional connections between visitors and  immigrants past and present, helping to enhance appreciation of the important role immigration has played and continues to play in shaping America's identity.

- Discover the history, architecture and spiritual significance of the beautifully restored Eldridge Street Synagogue in lower Manhattan, the first great house of worship built in America by East European immigrants.  Its Eldridge Street Museum allows visitors to step into the footsteps of the synagogue's immigrant founders, explore engaging digital displays and discover how the immigrant experience transformed and continues to transform communities today.  The nearby Kehlia Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum is virtually unchanged since being built in 1927 by Romaniote Jews from Janina, Greece.  Both memorabilia and the museum's tour guides describe the story of the Romaniote Jews, from their entry into Greece in the first century to their current life in America.

- New York's long connection to the Spanish-speaking world is readily apparent at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, with its focus on Latin American and Caribbean art.  Some ten percent of its collection concentrated on works by self-taught artists from New York, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Brooklyn Historical Society  
El Museo del Barrio    
Eldridge Street Synagogue  
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Kehlia Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum   
Lower East Side Tenement Museum 
Museum of Chinese in America  
Statue of Liberty  
Find other exciting attractions in the New York City region.

Hudson Valley & Catskills:

- From the beginning, the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah was committed to presenting exceptional art from all cultures and time periods. Its outreach programs for the local Hispanic immigrant population, working intensively with schools and service organizations to develop literacy and assimilation skills among this population, are on the forefront of community-based education programs.

Katonah Museum of Art    
Find other exciting attractions in the Hudson Valley region and Catskill region.

Capital-Saratoga and Adirondacks:

- European immigrants have made their presence known by creating ethnic enclaves within cities across New York State.  Two of these communities can be explored in Albany at the Irish American Heritage Museum and the American Italian Heritage Museum and Cultural Center

Slate Valley Museum in Granville documents and celebrates the history of the slate industry - important for roofing and flooring material -- and its people, many of whom were immigrant craftsmen and laborers.  The museum's exhibits and programs interpret the geology of New York's Slate Valley, the history of quarrying and the immigrant culture evident in the valley's local communities. 

Irish American Heritage Museum   
American Italian Heritage Museum and Cultural Center 
Slate Valley Museum    
Find other exciting attractions in the Capital-Saratoga region and Adirondacks region.

Thousand Islands-Seaway:

- From August 1944 until February 1946, Fort Ontario in Oswego served as the only shelter for Nazi Holocaust survivors in the United States.  The Safe Haven Museum and Education Center there tells a different kind of immigration story, that of the nearly 1,000 World War II refugees from Europe, including concentration camp escapees, brought to the region as guests of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Safe Haven Museum and Education Center  
Find other exciting attractions in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region.

Central New York:

- The 1747 Nellis Tavern in St. Johnsville reflects the culture of the Palatine Germans.  Two ground-floor rooms, a main hall, and the cellar show the mid 18th century farmhouse with its original fireplaces, huge ceiling beams and wattle and daub construction techniques. 

1747 Nellis Tavern  
Find other exciting attractions in the Central New York region.

Greater Niagara, Finger Lakes and Chautauqua-Alleghany:

- Neighbors: The People of Erie County is a permanent exhibit at the Buffalo History Museum exploring the region's rich ethnic and cultural heritage through the traditions and stories of immigrant Germans, Poles, Italians, African Americans, Irish, Asian, Balkan and many other groups as they formed a community in the Buffalo area.

Buffalo History Museum 
Find other exciting attractions in the Greater Niagara regionFinger Lakes region and Chautauqua-Alleghany region.

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