Red Star Line Museum
This Saturday a new, interactive museum opens at ‘t Eilandje (Antwerp-Nord): the Red Star Line Museum. In the old buildings of the shipping company, the exhibition tells about the migration via Antwerp to America. I write “tells” consciously, because the history of the Red Star Line and the migrations are reconstructed through the stories of ship passengers and their descendants. Last weekend I went to discover the museum and it was really worth the visit. And I am not only saying this because I worked at the Red Star Line Museum last month! Let me tell you more about what you can expect…
What is Red Star Line?
In the last quarter of the 19th century the Red Star Line shipping company was founded to help Europeans start a new life in America. Until the 1920s millions of immigrants went to Antwerp to cross the ocean with the Red Star Line, which had an enormous impact on the city. The Red Star Line possessed over 20 ships and even had a cruise ship that resembled the Titanic, namely the Belgenland II.
The Red Star Line Museum covers every aspect of the trip immigrants made to America: you start at the booking agent’s in Warschau and leave by train to Antwerp. There, the Red Star Line will finally bring you to Ellis Island, New York. On the way you learn more about the conditions the immigrants had to meet to be allowed in the United States. On board was a huge difference between the first and third class. While the first class passengers dwelled in luxury, the third class migrants travelled starkly because they had to spend all their money to flee from poverty and war.
The museum is above all a documentation centre about migration. In the first hall, a timeline exposes that people have always travelled for various reasons. Moreover, migration is still very topical because of the political changes in the Middle East. The last part of the exhibition enables visitors to find relatives who travelled with the Red Star Line in a database. People can also share their own migration story. This way the museum expands continuously.
Tips from an Insider
In August I worked at the offices of the Red Star Line Museum. It was thrilling to see how so many people constructed the museum. Because I worked for the communication service, I heard a couple of interesting tips for you:
• Like the MAS’s rooftop, the Red Star Line Museum’s tower is free to visit. The tower is in the shape of a ship chimney and on top of it, you get a unique view of the city.
• At the entrance hall you can have a drink at the pop-up bar or buy a souvenir at the gift shop.
• Make sure of two things before you visit the museum: 1) Make a reservation. Only 90 visitors are admitted per hour. 2) Check the discounts on the website. Minus-26-year-olds only pay €1 and on the last Wednesday of the month the museum is free for everybody!
This is Antwerp