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bountiful statistics. The same guide says a popular exhibit is the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, but for early visitors to the museum, "Treasures from Home" seemed to be the favorite exhibit, and Smith's and Wallace's scholarly reviews of the museum ignore it completely.33 Overall, the exhibits on display present a progressive process through which such people as Irish, Italians, Germans, Hispanics, Chinese, and South Africans became Americans.34 Exhibit themes such as "Through America's Gate" and "The Peopling of America" reinforce this impression, which ties into the larger image America has frequently promoted of itself as a nation ever moving forwards and upwards.35 Yet, the exhibits contradict themselves. Displays in "The Peopling of America" such as a globe displaying major migration pathways since 1700, which are meant to emphasize the multicultural nature of the U.S., could easily become a way to trace only one family's or country's emigrants and ignore those from other places. "Treasures from Home" could just as easily reinforce pride in a visitor's ancestors and the home country as prompt one to think about why the immigrants chose to bring the artifacts they did.36

The new social history, at work in so many of the exhibits, does not extend to all of them, and there are a few glaring gaps in the immigration story being told. Those gaps are ones that historians more than the general public would be likely to notice, but they are vital to a complete story, even more so because few laymen are aware information is missing. From the exhibits in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, one would little guess many unsavory characters came through the gate. Gangsters and criminals are not mentioned, although they surely came; prostitutes concerned immigration officials, as well, as attested by strict early 20th century rules mandating that no single female could be accompanied off the island by a male.37


33. Smith, "Celebrating Immigration History at Ellis Island"; Wallace, "Exhibition Review"; Yans-McLaughlin and Lightman, Ellis Island and the Peopling of America.
34. Bodnar, "Rembering the Immigrant."

35. John Bodnar, "Symbols and Servants: Immigrant America and the Limits of Public History," Journal of American History 73 (1986): 137-151.
36. Wallace, "Exhibition Review."
37. Ibid.
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