A Visit to The Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, Belgium

by Janis on August 28, 2017

Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumWe visited the Red Star Line Museum while in Antwerp, Belgium during our 14-day Celtic Explorer cruise on Holland America’s ms Prinsendam.

The museum — opened in 2013 — is housed in the former shipping line’s warehouses in Antwerp’s old port district called The Eilandje.

destinations of immigrants transported on Red Star Line from Antwerp, BelgiumFounded in 1872 by United States shipping magnates and two Antwerp business partners, the Red Star Line transported two million people to North America between 1873 and 1934. Most of these men, women and children were immigrating to the United States to start a new life. Their trip to the New World began a warehouse in Antwerp.

immigrant trunk, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumThe Red Star Line Museum is located in buildings that the shipping line had used for medical examinations and baggage handling for third-class passengers immigrating to the Americas. One part of the museum displays the baggage (or trunks) that passengers used to transport their most treasured belongings to their new home.

inside of immigrant trunk, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumWhen viewing this open trunk, I tried to image putting all of my belongings in it.

immigration issues from 1921-1924, Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, BelgiumAnother part of the museum focuses on the issue of restricting immigration throughout history. The Red Star Line’s passenger count declined dramatically after the United States decided to restrict immigration in 1921.

In 1924, the U.S. further tightened strict quotas for each country of origin.

first class passenger display, Red Star Line museum in Antwerp, BelgiumFirst class passengers always traveled differently than those in steerage. In 1923, the Red Star Line expanded into cruises and car importing, in response to the decline in U.S. immigration.

historic cruise menus and programs, Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, BelgiumCruise line fans will admire the display of historic cruise menus and programs from the “cruise focus” period of Red Star Line’s company history.

The change in marketing efforts did not make up for the number of lost immigrant passengers. On the verge of bankruptcy in 1934, the Red Star Line name and two ships were sold to Arnold Bernstein from Hamburg, Germany.

Bernstein, who is Jewish, was arrested by the Nazis in 1937, and his assets were confiscated by the German government.

Then, in 1939, the German government sold Red Star Line to the Holland America Line in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Holland America Line — from its Rotterdam headquarters — continues to run a Red Star Line service between Antwerp and New York until 1950.

search Red Star Line passenger lists at museum in Antwerp, BelgiumVisitors to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp can also use one its computers to search Red Star Line passenger lists.

A museum gift shop sells Red Star Line posters, books and other memorabilia similar to these:

If you are visiting Antwerp, we recommend a visit to the Red Star Line Museum. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We walked to the museum from the cruise port. It was about a 25-minute walk. The cruise line also offered a shore excursion that visited the Red Star Line Museum.

Have you visited Antwerp? What is your favorite attraction? 

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