is now associated with the Statue of Liberty, the universal symbol
of America's freedom and brotherhood with all nations and all peoples.
While historians have struggled with exhibits at the Ellis Island Immigration
Museum to present the many facets of immigration, the old notions the
public has about emigrants and the reasons why they came have changed
little. One could question the effectiveness of the new social history
at elucidating the complexities of immigration in a museum setting,
but what might be more illuminating is to examine members of society.
They are the ones who must ultimately accept or reject historians' new
ideas, and, because they want to believe it or because for some of them
it was true, the public insists on holding fast to the romantic notion
of immigration as a search for freedom and liberty. As historians develop
new ways of viewing America's history, as those who actually passed
through Ellis Island become fewer in number, and as Ellis Island fades
to the back of Americans' memories, the debates over Ellis Island's
symbolism will surely continue. Ellis Island's restored main building
has not seen the end of conflicting hopes and frustrated tears, nor
will it for many years to come.