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embark on the so-called “Ship of Dreams.” They are accompanied by personal questions about their departure, such as What are you taking with you?, written on the columns. The ship is represented by its prow—the part stands for the whole—, and oriented towards a huge glass window, suggesting wide open spaces, while the rest of the museum spaces are mostly immersed in half-light. On board, visitors are informed about the accommodation available—the differences between the classes in terms of comfort and hygiene crystallize in the reconstruction of the cabins for the “rich” and the “poor”—, the change for from sail to steam, with all its implications, and the cost and duration of the journey. The destination is New York, via Ellis Island. The statue of Liberty stands behind a mesh, but before reaching it the migrants have to pass medical assessment and interviews, represented by full-size dolls of the officers. Via posters, shop windows, and even a horse-drawn cart bearing fruit and vegetables (and video installations), the visitor is then plunged into the New York of 1900s. There is also a small section here dedicated to emigration to Latin America.

In the final room, some display cases present a profile of the German community and the story of the “Little Germany” neighbourhood, almost decimated following an accident at sea in 1904, which saw the deaths of about 1100 people from the area. There are stories of commercial success—such as those of Levi Strauss and Henry John Heinz, and artefacts showing the merging of the two cultures. Pictures accompanied by text narrate the stories of several statesman of German origin, such as Henry Kissinger

and Ernesto Geisel. Finally, we discover what happened to the emigrants we met in the first room. The “U” shape of the building means that we find ourselves back where we started, and able to tie up the thread of personal and social history. No space is left for reflection on contemporary immigrations or multiculturalism.

The adjacent building recreates the original atmosphere of the place. Here we find very little text, no partitions, no real “museum exhibition,” but rather an immersion in the dormitory “as it used to be.” Passing by the beds, in the open luggage we find texts, documents and artefacts describing the lives, habits, rules, rights and duties of the guests. We discover, for example, that men and women were hosted in different dormitories, but families were kept together; children slept two to a bed. Life-size mannequins suggest a dialogue between an officer and a guest at the moment of registration Genealogy research can be carried out free in the research centre; the museum provides access both to the Hamburg passenger lists, and to other databases, thanks to a partnership with Ancestry.de. Anna Chiara Cimoli ææ references

BallinStadt. Das Auswanderermuseum Hamburg. 2007. Betriebsgesellshaft BallinStadt mbH: Hamburg. Tzortzis, Andreas. 2007. “Hoping to Lure Visitors by Recalling Departures.” The New York Times, July 14.

Profile for POLITECNICO DI MILANO-DPA

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

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