NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — History is back on display at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.
Precious treasures were returned Wednesday after they were displaced by Superstorm Sandy.
As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, among the artifacts were shoes worn by an Austrian child immigrant when he arrived at Ellis Island; a teddy bear brought by a little girl coming from Switzerland; and a cap worn by an immigration inspector in 1900.
The items were removed from museum in the wake of Sandy.
“The storm surge … destroyed all of our basement electrical heating and cooling systems,” explained John Piltzecker, superintendent of the Statute of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.
A lack of climate control put the collection at risk, so six weeks after the storm, the National Park Service moved nearly half of it to a storage facility.
“For artifacts, especially wood and paintings and leather, textiles — things that are going to be affected by drastic changes in temperature — it’s really better to keep them stable.” said Judy Giuriceo, curator of exhibits for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Now nearly three years later, with infrastructure elevated for greater resilience and climate control operational again, the collection is back, and the empty walls will soon be covered.
Museum staff got to work Wednesday, taking their time getting the placement of a wooden wheelchair just right and returning the last remaining inspector’s desk to its showcase.
Dating back to 1900, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of immigrants stood before the desk to be interrogated before being granted or denied entry.
But it’s the personal items that hold the biggest meaning.
“All of those artifacts, the things that people brought with them, I think really connects us to them and what they felt,” Giuriceo said.
One room, affectionately called Santa’s Workshop, is where 2,000 more artifacts wait their turn to be put back where they belong — such as the bodice of a silk wedding dress that is still in a storage container.
All exhibits should be fully restored by early October.
The restoration is part of a $53 million storm recovery package funded by the federal government.