Beyond History Blog

Top 10: Emigration and Immigration Museums

Andrea Bentschneider - 10. November 2022 - Archives, Societies, Museums, Emigration, Genealogy, German-American

Did your ancestors (or their family members) emigrate? If they did, you are probably interested in learning more about their journey and the conditions the might have had to endure.

Hopefully, our blog series on emigration from Germany can give you some interesting insight. If you would like to get a more direct feeling, emigration and immigration museums can be a great way to walk in your ancestors footsteps. We can highly recommend the following ones.

Many of them will also give you the opportunity to access documents and information that could help with your genealogical research.



Museums on historical sites:

Auswanderermuseum BallinStadt (Emigration Museum BallinStadt) Hamburg, Germany
Experiential museum in Hamburg which makes emigration accessible through many interactive offerings since 2007. It is located historically on the Elbe island Veddel where during the beginning of the 20th century emigrants were waiting for their departure in the shantytown built by Albert Ballin. The exhibition was reopened after extensive rebuilding in 2016.

Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Center) Bremerhaven, Germany
The Emigration Center Bremerhaven was awarded European Museum of the Year in 2007. It illustrates the life of emigrants from boarding to arrival in New York in an easily accessible way. Presentation and atmosphere of the museum take visitors back to the times of the great waves of emigration. In a new section of the exhibition, which opened in 2021, visitors can also learn more about Germany as a country of immigration.

National Immigration Museum, Ellis Island, New York City, USA
This is the prototype of all emigration museums – although it is rather an immigration, not emigration museum. It informs visitors about immigration formalities and the fates of immigrants arriving in the United States. It is located in New York Harbor in the building of the former immigration authority and collection point for immigrants, respectively.

Immigration Museum Melbourne, Australia
This museum, housed in the former customs house in the city center of Melbourne, concentrates on the history of immigration to Australia as well the individual countries of origin of immigrants. Backgrounds of Immigration are complemented by technological-historical information and throwing light on Aboriginal culture in Australia.

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax, Canada
The Museum was voted one of the “Seven Wonders of Canada” for its special connection to the cultural diversity of Canada. Furthermore the museum continues the tradition to welcoming new immigrants to Canada, currently with the "Welcome Home to Canada (WHTC) program.

Muzeum Emigracji (Emigration Museum) Gdynia, Poland
The museum is located in the former maritime station, a transit building from which Polish emigrants left from the 1930s to 1979. It was opened in 2015 and is therefore one of the newer additions to this list and it shows emigration from Poland during the last 200 years and you can follow the journey of emigrants leaving for the US in the early 20th century.

Maritime Museum, Liverpool, England
Here there are numerous sections and collections giving the visitor an insight into emigration and immigration from and to England. It also offers information on the Titanic, ships, and customs stories. Art and life on board are further focal points of the museum.



Museums that are concerned with the topic but are not located on historical sites:

German-American Heritage Museum of the USA, Washington D.C., USA
This museum was opened in March 2010 and concentrates not only on emigration in the late 19th and early 20th century. It rather follows the German-American connections until today and offers information on various topics surrounding German influence and roots in the United States.

Auswanderermuseum Oberalben (Museum of Emigration in Oberalben), Germany
This museum concentrates on emigrants from the palatinate and their destinations. Besides the Unites States Brazil and other European countries are among them. Apart from reasons for emigration, difficulties and obstacles emigrants faced are addressed.

Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (National Museum of the History of Immigration), Paris, France
The museum shows a permanent collection which focuses on immigration (and partly emigration) in the 19th century. Besides that there are various special exhibitions. The specialty of the museum is its attempt to establish contemporary connections to its historical topics. Accordingly it reports on the fates of modern-day migrants.



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