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Coming to America Through Galveston

Written by , published September 22, 2009

I took advantage of Austin's Free Museum Day to catch up on a few exhibits I've been meaning to see.

Timmermann sisters display at "Forgotten Gateway" exhibit.

One of them, Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America Through Galveston Island at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, documents early 20th Century immigration through Galveston Island. Most of us are familiar with Ellis Island as a port of entry. However, lesser-known ports such as Galveston served as gateways for millions of immigrants; in Galveston, many were of southern and eastern European descent, including Italians, Greeks and Polish Jews. Packed with artifacts and documents of the time, interactive dioramas, and videos, Forgotten Gateway illustrates the sacrifices and severe hardships these immigrants endured, including interrogation, detention, and quarantine in their quest for a better life. The exhibit runs through October 11. It has been designated a We the People project by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will travel to other institutions, including Ellis Island Museum and Moody Gardens in Galveston (Opens Nov. 21). One curious aside: One of the displays prefacing the Galveston saga of Forgotten Gateways features a Christmas ornament and figurines of the holiday scene created by the Timmermann sisters were on view (see Happy 100th, Wanda Timmermann blog), with a brief description of the German family's ill-fated journey through Texas in 1849.

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