Opening Spring 2013 in Antwerp Red Star Line|People on the Move is a new and ambitious museum project in Antwerp (Belgium). It originated in 2005, when the city government acquired three harbor warehouses that once belonged to Red Star Line, a legendary local shipping company. Between 1873 and 1934, Red Star Line steamers transported more than two million European emigrants to America, sailing from Antwerp. The warehouses are now a protected monument.
As its title suggests, Red Star Line|People on the Move will focus on the history of Red Star Line and the experiences of its passengers (of whom more than half were East-European Jewish emigrants) to tell a more comprehensive story on migration and growing international mobility in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to a permanent collection, the museum will host temporary exhibits, thematic events and will offer visitors information retrieval possibilities on migration issues.
On the Rijnkaai, on Antwerp’s Eilandje, stand the historic port warehouses, which were owned or used by the Red Star Line. For many passengers they represented the last stop on the European mainland. It was here that, just before their departure, the emigrants traveling in third class underwent a medical examination and were disinfected, while clerks scrutinized their documents.
Poor European emigrants in search of the “American Dream,” but also affluent passengers traveling for business or pleasure, left for New York. The Red Star Line shipping company enjoyed its golden age in the last decades of the 19th century, and the first decades of the 20th century. This was a period in which international passenger transport enjoyed an unprecedented growth and people throughout the world became more mobile. Red Star Line was one of the pioneers in the burgeoning cruise tourism. At the end of the 19th century, Antwerp was engaged in a fierce struggle with competing emigration ports: Rotterdam, Hamburg, Liverpool and Le Havre.
The Red Star Line buildings are part of Antwerp’s communal memory. In 2013, Red Star Line/People on the Move Museum will open its doors at this historic location. It will be a place of remembrance, experience, debate and research into international mobility, both past and present. The story of Red Star Line and its passengers will be brought to life once more.