Ellis Island exhibit ‘Streets Paved with Gold’ to feature New Yorkers’ handwritten stories

The National Park Service wants to pave Ellis Island with gold, and it needs the help of immigrants to do it.

Whether they believed it was true or merely a metaphor for the American dream, many immigrants who walked the halls of Ellis Island during the early 20th century talked of how the streets of their new country were paved with gold.

Now, more than a century later, the National Park Service is looking to build off of that famous saying by collecting anecdotes, advice and messages from New Yorkers who are connected in some way with the immigration process.

The parks service, which manages Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, will take those messages to feature in a new exhibit, “Streets Paved with Gold.”

A few pop-up events are planned to give New Yorkers a chance to write their stories on a “gold brick” (a type of gold foil paper). 

The exhibit is still in the planning phase, a NPS spokesman said, but the conceptual vision is to feature the “gold bricks” vertically on panels along a wall. The project is expected to take up hundreds of square feet of space. 

“The ultimate size will be determined by the quantity of the highest quality responses we receive,” spokesman Gerald Willis said.

A launch date has not yet been set, but the parks service said it’s aiming for late fall.

The upcoming pop-ups will be located at Rochdale Village in Queens on Aug. 7, from 1 to 7:30 p.m., and at the Queens Public Library in Jackson Heights on Aug. 14, from 2 to 7:30 p.m. Pop-up events have already been held in places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Public Library.

If you can’t make it to a pop-up event but still want to contribute to the exhibit, submissions can be emailed to streetspavedwithgold@nps.gov.

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