Leaving Europe: A new life in America

written by Beth on December 18, 2012 in Exhibitions and News with 3 comments

Today, a brand-new exhibition goes live on Europeana. ‘Leaving Europe: A new life in America’ tells the story of European emigration to the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries.

It’s the result of an exciting collaboration with the Digital Public Library of America and uses more than 100 photographs, manuscripts, newspapers, paintings, letters, audio and government documents to chart peoples’ journeys across the European continent and their settlement in the United States. Many of these images have rarely been made available before.

Over 30 million Europeans, from as far north as Scandinavia and as far south as Sicily, set sail to America in the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century. The virtual exhibition, organised into seven major themes, describes the very human experiences and the historical context that different groups of hopeful immigrants from across Europe faced. Through the exhibition you can accompany them on their journeys across the Atlantic and into the ports, cities, and local communities of the United States. Find out why so many people emigrated to the Land of Hope and Dreams, and the opportunities and challenges this life-changing decision revealed.

Here’s one example of an emigrant’s life story. The  man on the left of the photograph, Peder (Peter) Martinson Eyes, was born on 25 January 1886 in Island Hjellan, Norway. On 18 April 1906, aged 20, he emigrated from Kristiansund via Liverpool on the ‘RMS Baltic’, arriving at Ellis Island on 5 May. He then moved to North Manitou, Michigan, in the Upper Midwest of the USA. In 1910, almost 80 percent of the one million or more Norwegian Americans—the immigrants and their children—lived in that part of the United States. Peter married Eleanor Anderson Nerland (from Kristiansund) on 30 May 1921 in Traverse City, Michigan. They had three children. He died in Traverse City on 27 May 1973.

Europeana’s contributing partners to the exhibition include the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Jewish Museum of London, the Royal Library of the Netherlands, the Saxon State Library, and the Norwegian Photo Archives. The DPLA’s contributors include the New York Public Library, Harvard University, The (US) National Archives and Records Administration, and the University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center.

Explore ‘Leaving Europe: A new life in America’  in English or French.

Emigrants, une arrivée [le pont d’un navire arrivant à Ellis Island remplis d’émigrants] Bibliothèque nationale de France, public domain
Emigrants [sur Ellis Island], deux gosses d’Italie, Bibliothèque nationale de France, public domain
Portrett, Øya Hjellan 0, FylkesFOTOarkivet i Møre og Romsdal, free access
Featured image – Climbing into America, Ellis Island, 1905 (1905) , The Photography Collection, The New York Public Library, NY, USA