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October 28, 2013

Ellis Island museum reopens after Sandy's floods

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

The floodwaters didn't touch the Ellis Island exhibits, which are on the first and higher floors, but they were later moved to storage because they could have deteriorated without climate control.

Rebuilding and storm proofing the electrical and other networks without marring the 1900, Beaux-Arts-style building was a challenge to plan and is still a $21 million, 18-month work in progress. Heat is currently running through the building's original radiators, instead of the modern climate-control system.

Officials are still working on regulating the radiators before bringing back venerable documents, clothes, musical instruments and other objects, Luchsinger said. He hopes to start returning the items to their galleries within about a month and to have the public family-research computers running again by the end of November.

"Yes, we are shy a little bit on exhibits and artifacts, but we're not shy on character, at all," he said while standing before a glass-enclosed array of steamer trunks and suitcases in the former baggage room where immigrants left belongings.

The climate-control and other systems are being elevated and waterproofed as much as possible without compromising the building's historic and architectural qualities, Luchsinger said. He estimates the building will be able to recover from any future major floods in a month or less.

"This is an icon," he said, speaking of the island and its role in the nation's diversity. "It's what this country is all about."

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