ISLAND IMMIGRATION MUSEUM IN NEW YORK HARBOR
June 28, 2012 - September 4, 2012
In November 1903, the British Cunard Line commenced a direct passenger steamship line between the cities of Rijeka (then more commonly known as
Fiume) and New York. During the next decade, Rijeka became one of the largest points of embarkation for immigrants coming to America. In
total, over 330,000 emigrants left Europe for the United States from Rijeka.
Rijeka's importance to the "immigration trade" was such that the United States raised the status of its consular office in the city to that of a
General Consulate (young Fiorello LaGuardia, later the long-term mayor of New York City, served as a Consular Agent in Rijeka during this period and learned Croatian!). Indeed, famed African American educator and writer Booker T. Washington made a special trip to Rijeka to witness the processing of emigrants as they boarded ships for the New World (of interest, one of the ships plying the Rijeka-New York route, the Carpathia, picked up the survivors of the Titanic on its way back to
Rijeka's importance in this aspect of world history has recently come under greater appreciation in the City itself, leading the Museum of the
City of Rijeka to sponsor an exhibition at its facilities. Oddly, for a variety of reasons, most emigrants leaving from Rijeka's port were not
Croatians (most Croatians used ports in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and England). As a result, the Museum determined that the exhibition would have a wider focus, looking at emigration from Austria-Hungary as a whole. The Museum was honored by winning the annual award of the Croatian Museum Association in 2009 for that exhibition.
The results of this work can be seen at Ellis Island this summer in the exhibition "Merika: Emigration From Central Europe to America
1880-1914." Three richly illustrated books have thus far been published in connection with this exhibition by the Museum of the City of Rijeka,
as well as the earlier one held in Rijeka: Merika (bilingual, Croatian and English edition, 2008); a comprehensive work Veliki val (in Croatian, 2012), which contains articles by numerous scholars from
throughout the world (an English translation will soon appear); and From Central Europe to America (in English, 2012) which has put together
especially for the Ellis Island exhibition (copies of the latter will be available at the Ellis Island gift shop; all three books can be ordered
directly from the Museum of the City of Rijeka).
The Museum of the City of Rijeka must be applauded for its efforts to bring this exhibition to the "Gateway to America" in the shadow of the
Statue of Liberty. It truly represents one of the greatest success to date by a Croatian cultural institution in the United States.
An opening reception, to which the public is invited, for the exhibition will be held on Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. Those coming to the New York area this summer are urged to make Ellis Island a stop on their travels to see this important and fascinating exhibition. For
more information about the exhibition or the publications mentioned above, please contact the Museum of the City of Rijeka at