About Us

We tell the stories of working-class tenement residents who moved to New York City from other countries and other parts of the country. Their work helped build the city and nation, and their stories help us understand our history. While textbooks often overlook the stories of ordinary people, our tours immerse visitors in the tenement hallways, kitchens, and parlors where families carved out new lives. We share primary sources and research that help us explore the stories of tenement families. Public programs, curricula, and our Your Story Our Story website continue the conversation, using our stories as points of departure to connect the past to present.

We aim to build an inclusive and expansive American identity and believe that the exploration of our complex history—one with moments of both inclusion and exclusion—helps prepare us to recognize and discuss today’s complex issues with empathy and nuance.

Special Gala Program

Rebuilding Our Foundations

In case you missed it, watch this year’s livestream Gala program, Rebuilding Our Foundations — broadcasted from City Winery!

Revisit the Museum at its founding in 1988, explore its evolution in the years since, see the progress on our 97 Orchard Street preservation project, and learn more about our upcoming new apartment exhibit!

Our Story

Co-founder of the Tenement Museum, Ruth Abram, stands at a podium giving a speech at a Lower East Side Historic Conservancy event.

Our Beginnings

Founded in 1988 by historian Ruth Abram and social activist Anita Jacobson, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum explores the uniquely American story of immigration and the rich, diverse landscape it continues to create. The Museum took root when Abram and Jacobson discovered 97 Orchard Street — a dilapidated tenement building that had been shuttered for more than 50 years.

Assorted pieces of torn paper and artifacts found at 97 Orchard Street, including bits from flyers, playing cards, and photos

Revealing A Shared History

Although the building was in ruins, they uncovered personal belongings and other evidence of the families that called those apartments home between the 1860s and 1930s. These artifacts and the families who owned them became the foundation for what the Tenement Museum represents today: a belief that our national identity is best understood and appreciated through the stories of real families whose lives have shaped our shared history.

A museum educator points at a painted mural on a wall at 97 Orchard Street

Bridging the Past to the Present

Today, we explore stories of tenement dwellers through guided tours of our two historic buildings at 97 and 103 Orchard Street and their Lower East Side neighborhood. These immersive trips back in time offer a chance to explore identity, public policy, urban development, architecture, and other themes through the true stories of the ordinary families who lived in these iconic buildings and the people in the neighborhood.

Engaging in the Immigrant and Migrant Experience

The Tenement Museum provides many opportunities to understand the experiences of immigrants and migrants, and the fundamental role they play in defining our national identity. Below are a few ways we educate and inspire deeper understanding.

Apartment Tours

Apartment tours explore historically recreated tenement apartments and discover how immigrants and migrants lived here in the 19th and 20th centuries. Along with a glimpse of the past, visitors glean insights from educators who offer historical perspectives that relate to current conversations about immigration.

Special Virtual Tours

During live, online tours, our Educators take you into the historically restored apartments using pre-recorded video, audio and images, and share stories of a family who lived in our historic buildings in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Neighborhood Walking Tours

Walking tours at the Tenement Museum provide visitors with a curated exploration of the often-forgotten places, unexplored spaces, and untold stories that have shaped one of America’s iconic immigrant neighborhoods. By visiting historical sites in the dynamic and ever-changing Lower East Side, visitors learn about the neighborhood’s past, engage with the neighborhood’s present, and identify their role in their own neighborhood’s future.


Classroom Experiences
& Curriculum

Take your class on an engaging educator-led tour and bring the immigrant experience to life. Students will be inspired to make connections between the past and their own lives. Our Lesson Plans and virtual tours and field trips can complement a visit to the Museum or be used independently.


English Language Workshops

In our innovative Shared Journeys workshops, learners of English as a new language tour the recreated apartments of immigrant and migrant families and compare them to their own experiences while practicing vocabulary, listening, and conversation skills. Offerings include programs for adults, middle and high school students, and families.

Upcoming Events

Join us for free book talks, discussions, family events, and more that spotlight New York’s immigrants, migrants, and refugees and the issues that impact us, past and present.

Your Story, Our Story

Our online storytelling experience, Your Story, Our Story explores American migration and cultural identity through everyday objects. In this national initiative, people of all ages from across the country are invited to share their own stories with an object that has special meaning for their family.