Angel Island Immigration Station

The history of the West Coast's gateway to America


LIFE Photo Collection

Introducing Angel Island Immigration Station

From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station in California functioned as a Detention Center for people immigrating to the United States through the West Coast. Many of the people that passed through Angel Island came from Asia but also South America, Russia, Mexico, Australia, and Canada. Hundreds of inscriptions mark the walls of the former Immigration Station Detention Center including poems, names, dates, and images. Inscribed by detainees, the writing on the wall provides insight into the lives of those detained on the island. The Angel Island Immigration Station is one of only two National Historic Landmarks in the United States focused on Asian and Asian American history.

Bell on Angel Island by CyArkCyArk

Angel Island Today

When guests visit Angel Island Immigration Station they will find recreated bunk rooms and other living spaces, evoking a time when immigrants were detained on the island. Park staff give guided tours and interpretive talks for visitors in order to bring to light the many issues that immigrants faced on Angel Island 100 years ago, while also discussing the histories of families who passed through the Immigration Station. These buildings were left to deteriorate after their decommissioning in 1943. Local advocacy for the site grew in 1970s resulting in the protection of the due to the hundreds of poems and inscriptions that mark the walls. This site is currently a California State Park, as well as a California Historical Landmark.

National Parks Staff with wall poems found at Angel Island Immigration Station by CyArkCyArk

The Poetry of Angel Island

Angel Island became a California State Park in 1963. The buildings at the Immigration were set to be demolished but saved when a collection of Chinese poetry was found carved into the walls of the mens' barracks. Half a century of history is layered on the walls at the immigration station through poetry and inscriptions. The poetry paints a picture of what people were feeling as they made their way to America touching on uncertainty, hardship, and hope. Today over 200 poems have been documented, recorded, and translated.

Immigration History at Angel Island State Park by CyArkCyArk

CyArk Documentation Team on Angel Island by CyArkCyArk

Expedition Overview

In October 2020 CyArk documented the the Immigration Station using aerial and terrestrial photogrammetry as well as LiDAR or laser scanning. The team also documented the stories of the site through interviews with State Park interpreter Casey Dexter-Lee.  The data collected was used as the basis for the creation of virtual guided tour of the site, allowing virtual visitors to observe details of select poetry and inscriptions on the walls and gain new insight into the complexities of American immigration history within the 3D digital space. The project was completed in partnership with Angel Island State Park, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and with the generous support of Iron Mountain.

Angel Island Immigration Station by CyArkCyArk

Additional Resources

For more information on this site, its history and additional resources relating to CyArk’s work please visit

CyArk Angel Island Immigration Station Resources.

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This project was made possible through the generous support of Iron Mountain and the following partners:

National Park Service

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