Miss Katherine Reed

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My History PhD research focuses on messages and pictures drawn on the walls by detainees at Ellis Island immigration station in New York c.1900-1924.  Discovered during the restoration of the building in the 1980s, this source material provides a fascinating insight into the experiences and emotions of people held in the limbo of immigration detention.  These traces of writing on the walls, largely neglected in the historiography, are significant as a counterpoint to official mark-making and bureaucracy.  Ellis Island was an environment where the performance of writing was suffused with power, infamously in the marking out of passengers for further inspection with chalk symbols on their clothing.  In the official documents, detainees’ voices were translated, transcribed and circumscribed.  In contrast, the walls of dormitories and detention rooms formed a backstage space for personal musings, creativity and low-level dissent.  

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2011 - Master of Arts, War, Culture and History, The University of Manchester

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