By KATHY MEGYERI
Those looking for a memorable summer getaway should consider a trip to New York City, where the new 26,000 square-foot Statue of Liberty Museum opened May 16. It’s the most extensive and impressive upgrade since our Lady first raised her six-foot-tall torch in 1886.
Funded by a $100 million public campaign, the free museum provides visitors the opportunity to learn about Lady Liberty’s history, influence and legacy through interactive displays and artifacts, including the replication of Paris sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s
Visitors can also gaze upon
the original 3,600 lb. torch (replaced
during the restoration in the 1980s), a
full-scale copper replica of the Statue’s
face and foot, and listen to recordings of
One of the most surprising revelations?
Lady Liberty was originally conceived (and
funded) to celebrate the end of slavery – not to welcome immigrants as popular wisdom has it.
The Statue was the brainchild of Edouard de Laboulaye, a French political thinker, U.S. Constitution expert and abolitionist, who imagined it as a commemorative
gift from France to celebrate the freeing of U.S. slaves.
Indeed, broken chains lie at Lady Liberty’s feet. The famous inscription by Emma Lazarus that contains the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wasn’t added until 1903.
The museum rises from the pedestrian mall on Liberty Island and offers sweeping panoramic views of Lady Liberty, lower Manhattan and New
York Harbor. The building’s materials— granite, bronze and copper—are the same materials used on the Statue’s pedestal 130 years ago.
The building was created with sustainability and LEED Gold certification in mind. The 14,000 square foot roof scape is seeded with native meadow grasses to attract native birds; soaring glass windows are etched with patterns to avoid bird strikes. The museum is constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds and erected above the 500-year floodplain to accommodate climate change.
The Statue’s Public Affairs Officer, Jerry Willis, said, “The museum was designed to blend into the historic landscape of the island so it looks like it’s emerging. It is intended as a place of inspiration for those who visit the Statue as it tells the stories of being a gift
from France, of it embodying our sacred values, and of it continuing its original legacy.”
About 4 million visit the Statue annually and the new structure is built
to accommodate them all. In the past,
visitors would often have to stand in
long lines to enter the small museum
inside the Statue’s pedestal, which could only accommodate about
4,000 people a day.
This fall, an HBO documentary, Liberty, Mother of Exiles, will detail how sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s dream became a reality and what the Statue means to people who came here for a
My husband Les, a Hungarian refugee, remembers seeing the Statue rise from the sea as he entered the harbor on board a ship in February 1959.
“It felt like I was truly coming home,” he said.
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