The Ellis Island Museum Gets a Face-Lift

Good morning. It’s Thursday. Today we’ll find out why a construction trailer has arrived at the museum on Ellis Island. We’ll also get details on a significant vote on the congestion pricing plan.

Credit…Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

The museum on Ellis Island “tells a foundational story of who we are as a country because it tells a story of where we came from,” said Jesse Brackenbury, the president and chief executive of the nonprofit that operates the museum. “You’re walking in the footsteps of the 12 million people who came through.”

“But,” he added, “it’s a 34-year-old museum.”

It needs more than just a little freshening up, he said. His organization, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, is beginning a $100 million project for what he called “a reimagined museum,” with a 120-foot-wide video screen. For visitors who want to look up relatives — “the emotional core of a visit,” Brackenbury said — there will be an expanded family history center with a database of 154 million names.

The construction trailer arrived last week. The work won’t immediately be obvious to the public, Brackenbury said, because the early stages do not involve public spaces. The museum will remain open as the work moves into those areas.

The changes inside the elaborate Beaux-Arts building will dovetail with a $17.7 million “infrastructure improvement project” outside paid for by the National Park Service. The brick-and-limestone facade will be repointed, and the half-moon-shaped windows beneath the vaulted ceilings inside will be replaced. The Park Service said in a statement that the work was “critical to the long-term protection of the building.”

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