Sandy Damage Shutters Symbol of US Immigration Until Next Year

Thursday, May 02, 2013

For more than a hundred years, visitors have been passing through Ellis Island. But since it opened as a national park, instead of the poor, huddled masses entering the 19th century building it's their descendents and tourists streaming in. All that changed after Sandy, whose flood waters covered the entire island.

Diana Pardue, chief of museum services at Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, has seen many storms in her 20 years on the job, but never one that caused water to come over the sea wall, let alone cover the entire island. Flood waters blew out basement windows and destroyed power panels, which knocked out the climate control system. That's what protected the more than one million artifacts housed at the museum from the elements.

"I'm use to having things happen and we pull everything together and things are closed for a week or two and then we open," she said. "It took me a long time to adjust to the fact that Ellis was going to be closed for a year."

The National Park Service sent an emergency response team to help Pardue and others pack up the artifacts and ship them to a climate-controlled warehouse in Landover, Maryland.

The focus for the park service has been on getting the Statue of Liberty open by July 4. But, Pardue says the service is taking the time to figure out how to rebuild smarter instead of doing what was done when the museum building was renovated over 20 year ago.

"One of the first things we all said is that we don't want to just build, put things back exactly the way they were because obviously, there's going to be problems. So we're trying to figure out how to do it better and more sustainably," she said.



Caitlyn Kim/WNYC

Water poured through basement windows during the storm. They have been boarded up until the Park Service starts its rebuilding.

Courtesy of the National Park Service
Flooding that occurred in the basement of the main building.
Courtesy of the National Park Service
The medical exhibit in the Ferry Building suffered damage from the storm.
Courtesy of the National Park Service
Over the course of 6 weeks, staff packed up all types of artifacts to move to storage in Landover, MD.
Courtesy of National Park Service
With no power, staff had to move boxes down three flights.
Courtesy of the National Park Service
Packing stations were set up on the balcony of the Reception Room. The museum housed its artificats on the upper floors.
Caitlyn Kim/WNYC
The baggage exhibit, which was what visitors first saw when entering the museum, is now empty.
Courtesy of National Park Service
The baggage exhibit before Sandy.
Courtesy of the National Park Service
What the Treasures From Home exhibit at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum looked like before the storm.
Caitlyn Kim/WNYC
Except for some photos and art work on the wall, the museum is empty of artificats.
Caitlyn Kim/WNYC
Instead of audio tour headsets, the area houses construction and safety equipment.
Caitlyn Kim/WNYC
Diana Pardue says it's strange to be on the island without the thousands of visitors that are usually around.
Caitlyn Kim/WNYC

Ellis Island Immigration Museum won't open until sometime next year. But the grounds will be open bu July 4, 2013, so people can walk around and visit outdoor monuments, like the Wall of Honor.

Caitlyn Kim/WNYC
Until July, the closest people will get to Ellis Island isjust off shore on a ferry.


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