Blog: The Start of a New Life

The National Museum of Immigration | Museo Nacional de la Inmigración

Main Image: Archivo General de la Nacion Argentina

The conference, Heritages of Migration: Moving Stories, Objects and Home, will take place at the National Museum of Immigration in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Museum was founded in 1974 at the site of a former Immigrants Hotel, which once  housed thousands of immigrants who passed through the port of Buenos Aires to begin a new life in Argentina.

The Start of a New Life

Italian Immigrants arriving in Argentina
Italian immigrants arriving in Argentina. (Archivo General de la Nacion Argentina)

At the start of the Industrial Revolution global, social, economic and political changes gave rise to thousands of people emigrating in search of new opportunities and better futures. Argentina was an attractive prospect, with its open immigration policy and a wealth of employment opportunities from agriculture to factory work. By the end of the 19th century the stream of immigrants had increased significantly, causing national authorities to  find ways of providing effective assistance to newcomers. Various properties were used for this purpose until officials commissioned the construction of a complex that had all the amenities and services necessary for the proper care of newcomers.

Thus, in 1905 the construction began of a whole new complex that would include all the amenities to accommodate passengers of first, second and third class. By 1911, all amenities were included and the building was inaugurated. This was to become know as the Immigrants Hotel.

There was a strict daily routine for all the hotel guests, at six o’clock they were woken up and breakfast was organised by shifts of a thousand people. Then the women were busy washing clothes and children. There was lunch at noon, with menus ranging from soup, stew meat, stew, pasta, rice or stew, and an afternoon snack was served for the children. From six in the afternoon shifts began for dinner and at seven the dormitories were opened again. Throughout the day courses were offered on the use of agricultural machinery and household chores, and there were also lectures and projections about Argentinean history, geography and law. Everyone could freely enter and leave the hotel.

  • Between 1820 and 1924 more than 55 million people crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life.

Today, the building houses an interactive exhibition which invites visitors to experience all the stages of migrating to Argentina. These stages include the Journey, the Arrival, the Insertion, and the Legacy, and are presented through unique historical documents, photographs, films and testimonies. The museum is also home to a contemporary art gallery which hosts a series of high profile exhibitions throughout the year.

Documents from the Archives
Documents from the National Museum of Immigration Archives (Archivo General De La Nacion Argentina)

The museum building, archives and exhibitions are managed by MUNTREF, the museum department at the Universidad Nacional De Tres De Febrero. The team at MUNTREF undertakes research and develops innovative exhibitions in response to the history, heritage and impact of immigration into Argentina, and explores the stories behind the many thousands of people that passed through the Immigrants Hotel and ultimately came to call Argentina their home.

The University of Birmingham is delighted to be working in partnership with MUNTREF for the delivery of this conference. During the event, delegates will have the opportunity to meet MUNTREF staff, explore the exhibitions, and hear the stories behind Argentina’s long history of welcoming immigrants from all over the world.

  • Tip: Upon your arrival at the museum you may fill in your Surname and find out whether any immigrants or relatives with the same name crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in Argentina.

Note: Images courtesy of Archivo General de la Nacion Argentina

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