The Red Star Line museum in Antwerp, Belgium, is one of the most interesting museums of the city.
It tells the, often heartbreaking, stories of approximately 2 million people who left their homes, friends and family to find a better place to live, the American Dream.
From the Rijnkaai in Antwerp, they boarded the majestic passangers ships of the American-Belgian shipping company 'Red Star Line', to bring them to Ellis Island, New York.
This all happened in the period 1873 and 1934, with World War I walking right through it.
In short, a must-see museum in Antwerp!
In the Red Star Line museum, you will meet several characters, and get to know their story why they left home. They all had their own reasons, but often it boiled down to the following main reasons.
Some people, like the Belgians, were escaping the harsh working conditions back home. The industrila revolution made some people incredibly rich, but this on the back of the poor labourers who earned basically nothing for a full day's of work. The United States of America promissed them a better life...
Other people were escaping home. Not necessarily because they want to go away from home, but because it was getting to dangerous. This was the case with the many jewish families in Eastern Europe and Russia. Antisemitism was on the rise and it was dangerous to stay. America was the outcome.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was in a negative spiral. Politicians were hardening their tone and some people felt that we were going toward a worldwide war, where a lot of people would die.
In the Red Star Line museum you will actually walk in their footsteps, as the museum is in the actual building where people arrived to check in. You will walk around in the administration building, the luggage building and the building where the people's health got checked.
You will see a lot of artefacts and pictures from the ships and the travellers. The human story is the red line throughout the whole museum.
Looking at all the footage of the stories, you can imagine where people came from and how terrible their life conditions were. Times were so though and then thinking of those who bought a Red Star Line ticket with their savings to jump into the unknown, is heartbraking. Often, they had to leave family behind, with the promiss to send money back, so that the rest of the family could join. Sometimes, this never happened and families were torn apart...
Also be sure to climb the tower. This will give you a superb view over the river Scheldt and the docks from where the passengers left Europe.
The Red Star Line museum in Antwerp is a world-class museum and should definitely be on your list when you come to Antwerp.
The museum got top reviews, one from the 'Huffington Post' as one of the 'World's hottest museums for 2014'.
This is what they say:
Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, Belgium
New York has Ellis Island. Antwerp, on the other side of the Atlantic, has the new Red Star Line Museum. The Belgian institution is drawing crowds as it tells the stories of emigrants who took the Red Star Line from Europe to North America. The museum is located on the banks of the Scheldt River at the old Red Star Line shipping company, whose tower and adjoining warehouses served as central departure points for 2 million emigrants from all over Europe from 1873 to 1934. Before leaving for Ellis Island, people had to convince local officials that they would make it in North America, and many parents were forced to leave children behind to join the great European migration.
The Red Star Line Museum is located in the neighbourhood 'Het Eilandje' or 'Little Island'. It's the most northern district of Antwerp.
Its offical address is Montevideostraat 3.
It's close to the MAS...
The Red Star Line museum in Antwerp is open every day, except for Monday, from 10 am until 5 pm.
The normal adult price is 8 euro.
6 euro for people over 65 year old or between 12 and 25 years old.
And totally FREE if you have the Antwerp City Card. This card gives you so many benefits and free rides on the public transport, that it is a no brainer to get one when you visit Antwerp.
The story of the European migration to America, told by the Red Star Line museum, is wel documented in fantastic books and DVD's.
If you want to read or see more, apart from visiting the museum, of course, then I recommend these:
1) The Red Star Line book
This book is a pearl. It has an enormous amount of pictures, drawings, graphs and gives you the full story in all its details!
This is a beautiful addition to your library!
2) The Red Star Line DVD
This DVD box consists of 2 dvd's, full of exclusive footage of the passengers and the ships.
In English, French and Dutch!
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