Ellis Island’s Forgotten Hospital (Documentary)

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When most New Yorkers think of Ellis Island, they probably recall the Great Hall where 12 million immigrants were processed, which opened to the public in 1990 after three decades of neglect and disrepair.

But unknown to most people is the fact that Ellis Island contains a long-forgotten 22-building hospital complex, which during its busiest years, from 1902 to 1930, was one of the largest public health undertakings in United States history, and a place of heartbreak and hope, sickness and recovery.

Since 1998, Lorie Conway, a Boston-based journalist and documentary filmmaker, has worked to uncover the hospital’s history. She received exclusive access from the National Park Service to film at the abandoned hospital for two years.

She stepped into buildings overgrown with ivy and filled with asbestos and broken glass. She traveled across the country to find records in dusty government archives. She tracked down descendants of long-dead immigrants, here and abroad.

The fruits of her nine-year effort are a book and documentary (and accompanying Web site) titled “Forgotten Ellis Island.” The film had its premiere on Monday at Ellis Island.

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