Ellis Island Lantern Slides & Meredith Monk
Proteus Gowanus (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
Right after New Year’s, Proteus Gowanus and Morbid Anatomy Library will be co-hosting lantern slides of Ellis Island immigrants presented by Barbara Mathe of the American Museum of Natural History along with a screening of Meredith Monk’s short film, ‘Ellis Island’ (1981), performed and filmed in the island’s ruins before the start of renovations for the Ellis Island Museum, which opened in 1990. Ellis Island was the gateway for the majority of immigrants to the United States, processing over 12 million immigrants from 1892 until 1954.
Part I: The Lantern Slides
The extensive lantern slide collection at the American Museum of Natural History Library includes a small collection of images taken at Ellis Island. Many of the images can be attributed to Augustus Sherman, Chief Clerk at the Immigration Station and many are hand colored.
Barbara Mathé, Museum Archivist at the American Museum of Natural History, will show a number of the original slides and talk about how these images may have been presented and perceived in the early 20th century at the time when, as noted in a 1907 National Geographic article, “No migration in history is comparable to the great hordes that have crossed the Atlantic during the past 20 years to enter our territory.”
How and why these images came to be included in the AMNH’s larger collection is unclear but are believed to be part of an extensive program of illustrated lantern slide lectures that the Museum initiated as a broad educational project.
Barbara Mathé has worked in Special Collections in the American Museum of Natural History Library since 1988. Her research focus is photographic collections as seen through the historical contexts in which they were created and subsequently viewed. She was co-curator with Thomas Ross Miller for a major temporary exhibit at the AMNH in 1997, “Drawing Shadows to Stone: Photographing North Pacific Peoples” and they are co-authors of a volume of the same name produced to accompany the exhibit. She is presently working on a book about the photographs taken by Jessie Tarbox Beals of the ethnographic displays at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Part II: “Ellis Island”, a 1981 film by Meredith Monk
A film about the experience of immigrants entering America at the turn of the century, Ellis Island was performed and filmed amid the island’s ruins. The film was awarded the CINE Golden Eagle, special jury prize from the Atlanta and San Francisco Film and Video Festivals.
Ellen Fisher and Pablo Vela, performers in the film, will be in attendance at the screening.
Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, choreographer, filmmaker, and creator of new opera and music theater works. During a career spanning five decades, Monk has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts.