In 2013, the Red Star Line Museum will open in the historic warehouses of the Red Star Line shipping company. The museum tells the story of the shipping company, of its origins, its growth and its demise. But above all, the museum focuses on the story of the millions of passengers of the shipping company.
From 1870 onwards, huge numbers of Europeans started to migrate to North America The new world was the Promised Land for those who were looking for a better life. There was still a large amount of agricultural land available and the industry was begging for labour. Others wished to leave out of fear of political or religious persecution. The abolition of the emigration restrictions and the new, faster steam ships only underscored the American Dream.
Many people’s voyage to the United States and Canada started in a port warehouse in Antwerp. Between 1873 and 1934, there was an ebb and flow in Antwerp’s Eilandje District of migrants, tourists, adventurers and fortune-seekers from all over Europe - more than two million in all. They boarded the Red Star Line’s ocean steamers at the Rijnkaai, for a journey to the new world, to happiness and to a better life. The migrants were mainly Eastern Europeans, and sometimes also Germans and Belgians. Two ships sailed every week during the heyday of the legendary shipping company with the red star on its flag. They carried 1,000 to 1,500 passengers. These were migrants for the most part, but soon the first - wealthy - tourists also started using the shipping company.
The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of the millions of Europeans who dared to leave everything behind and go in search of happiness and a better life. It is a tale of high expectations and deep disappointments, of hope and sleepless nights. The shipping company’s old buildings will help make all these emotions and stories tangible and visible.
The Red Star Line Museum refuses to bury itself in history. Migration is a universal and timeless phenomenon. It continues today, especially in our port city. For the people of Antwerp, the museum will be a way of getting to know their own city from a new perspective. For the general public, the museum is an adventurous voyage in the footsteps of people who could have been their ancestors. And in some cases they actually are. But above all, the museum wishes to stimulate reflection. Antwerp, and by extension any place in the world, is what it is because of the people who lived there in the past. And it shall be what it shall become because of the people who live there today.
In March phase one of the renovations ended. The work on the foundations took nine months. In April the second phase, the actual renovation of the warehouses, was started...