New and recommended books: December 2008
Ellis Island: Gateway to America

“I See My Own Face Everywhere”: Augustus Frederick Sherman’s Portraits Resonate with Visitors

Copy of Dutch siblings We thought you would be interested to hear that in the few weeks that “Augustus Frederick Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits, 1905-1920” has been open, it has touched a chord with visitors.

We greatly appreciate the comments visitors offer verbally to staff, and on comments cards. Many of the thoughts we have received have been funny, insightful, and intriguing. Here is a sampling:

In answer to the question, “If you were immigrating to another country, what you bring and why?,” one visitor said, “No matter what country I immigrate to, it will be my home if my family is with me.” A young visitor noted, “If I didn’t have to be selective, I would take a lot.”

Some visitors shared their immigration stories with us, including this one: “My husband’s grandmother got on a ship from Europe to Ellis Island with her fiancé. She got off the boat engaged to my husband’s grandfather, NOT the original fiancé. We only wish we knew the stories of what happened on board!”

Many of Sherman’s portraits inspire curiosity. More visitors have responded to the query, “Who in these photos would you like to meet?” than any other. One visitor wrote, “I would like to meet the two German stowaways and ask them where they got their tattoos. I am sure they have a story for each one.” Another said, “I would like to meet a mother of many children and ask her how she managed such a large group on such a long and uncertain voyage!”

In sharing their impressions of the exhibition, visitors left these thoughtful remarks. One commented, “This interesting exhibit clearly shows how similar … we are to these brave people who faced adversity, change and the future with courage in their hearts and hope in their eyes. Just as we need to today.” Another observer said simply, “I see my own face everywhere.”

In addition, the exhibition warranted a full-page review in The Boston Globe by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Mark Feeney. He called the exhibition “deeply affecting,” and characterized Sherman as the unlikely bureaucrat who became an “inadvertent artist.” Margaret Smith, art critic for The MetroWest Daily News sees the portraits as “studies of hope, fear, bewilderment and often pride in one’s place of origin and determination in one’s destination.” We hope you will visit! 

Dutch siblings from the island of Marken, holding religious tracts
Augustus Frederick Sherman (1865-1925)
Courtesy of Aperture Foundation and Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island Immigration Museum


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