A Visit to The Tenement Museum

Last month, I made a visit to the Tenement Museum along with my friends on a fine Tuesday morning. The Tenement Museum is located on the 97 Orchard Street (“The Tenement Museum”). The Tenement Museum is a site in the New York City (NYC) that has great historic value as it provides the visitors with an opportunity to walk through the original tenement houses. The Museum sufficiently explains how difficult it was for the early American immigrants to settle in America particularly in the beginning of the 20th century.

In the Tenement Museum, I had for the first time in my life, actually felt what it meant to be an immigrant about a 100 years ago. Although my grandparents had also immigrated to America from Ireland, yet I could not learn about the difficulties immigrants faced as much from them as I learned in the Tenement Museum. Perhaps, my grandparents had had a smooth journey through it all, so they never told me things were as harsh for the immigrants as I saw in the Tenement Museum.
The Tenement Museum is one of its own kind. Unlike the trend in conventional museums, the tenements can not be seen unless the visitor makes a walking tour in the form of a group. Visitors can not just roam about the place individually as they would like to. Although not many visitors like me approve of this idea, yet I find it a wonderful way in which the visitors can be made aware of maximum things in the minimum time. My group mates and I together went on the tour titled “Getting By”. In the tour, we had an in-sight into the life of two families, one of which was of the German-Jewish origin, while the other family was of Italian-Catholic origin. The families were called as the Gumpertz family and the Baldizzi family respectively. The Gumpertz family lived through the Panic of 1873. The Baldizzi family lived in the period of the Great Depression.

The apartments that the immigrants were provided with to live in were very small. Within some square feet, the immigrants had to adjust all areas of a home including the kitchen and the toilet. This tells how tough life must have been for them. As the visitors walk past the houses on groups, they are narrated the stories of the families that lived in them. I particularly liked the character of Nathalie, that was the mother in the Gumpertz family. Julius, the father of the family had run away and the only son Nathalie had passed away when he was very young. Nathalie accordingly became the head of the family. She had no source of income and had to run the expenses of the family single handedly. Though, Nathalie was fortunate enough to secure $ 600 from her father-in-law as he died. From that money, Nathalie ran the expenses of the family and had managed to double the inherited sum before she died. Although Nathalie had no former skills or education, yet she was wise and skilled enough to make both ends meet.

Adolfo Baldizzi and Rosaria Baldizzi illegally migrated to America shortly after their marriage in 1922. The couple left for Canada so that they would be able to re-enter America in a legal way. They first had a daughter and then a son. According to Josephine, the daughter in the family, the apartment they lived in lacked light, furniture, and was extremely cold. Every morning, the family would take bath in cold water. Despite all the hardships, the family did all they could to make theirnliving rich. They made perfect use of the scanty furniture they had, kept pets, cultivated plants and played radio all day long. Although the place they lived in was too small for the size of their family and they were not sound financially, yet they made a strong example of a nuclear family and lived happily together.

Overall, I would say that the trip to the Tenement Museum was worth spending the $ 15 on as I had the unique opportunity to experience the feelings of early American immigrants. It was though I was fled back to their time for the 1 hr that I spent in the museum. Having visited the Museum, I can say that just 1 visit to it is more beneficial and educative than 1 whole book that children may be taught about the early American immigrants in their schools.

Source: Student Share