The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of an estimated 2 million passengers who took one of the ships of the Red Star Line company to cross the Atlantic, to seek a better future in the United States, between 1873 and 1934. It also tells the story of migration in general, of people on the move and of the shipping company and its giant ships.
The museum is housed in the original buildings of the shipping company in the Antwerp harbour district, and the multi-media visit was well worth it as far as we are concerned, as the rich history of the Red Star Line and its passengers was brought back to life. But what do others think? Flandersnews asked two journalists.
Nick Haslam is a free-lance journalist from the U.K. who lives in Cornwall. He describes the museum as "fascinating." "The stories are well-told and put together well. It will be interesting to generations that have little knowledge of this vivid part of European history", says Nick, referring to the issue of migration in general. Many of those arriving in Antwerp were East-Europeans, among them also many Jews.
It can make younger generations understand better how migration works, and why people decide to move to a different country. It can play a key role in education as well, Nick estimates, and has every potential to do so. "Classic museums do not appeal to children. A classic museum just tells about history, but this one makes it all very understandable, and very real. It's a good example of the modern museum trend", says Nick.
He calls the giant chimney that acts as a tower to give visitors a panoramic view of the port, the Scheldt and the city centre, "an inspired choice by the architect."
"Children will understand Antwerp better"
Ianina Cozari is a journalist working for Radio-RuBel, a Belgian-based website that brings news for the Russian communities in Belgium and abroad in particular.
Ianina was born in Moldova, and has Russian-Ukrainian roots. "The Jewish topic is a topic that is very close to my soul", she explains. Ianina moved to Antwerp 7 years ago, and although it was not the first time she visited the museum, she was still quite impressed. "The museum is very well presented. Each room boasts a lot of creativity, thanks to the multi-media aspect."
Ianina also points to the educational aspect. "Antwerp has 170 different nationalities. It can make children understand why this is. It can learn them about the difficult past."
She would have liked to see more work of the former painter Eugeen van Mieghem in the museum though. Eugeen van Mieghem lived between 1875 and 1930, and was in this respect a prominent witness of the heydays of the Red Star Line. He lived just opposite the Red Star Line premises, and portrayed many third-class passengers. The museum website calls him an artist of the people.