The Statue of Liberty is a universally recognized structure and symbol. But do most people know the story of its creation? Opening this Thursday, the new Statue of Liberty Museum aims to educate visitors about the history and legacy of the statue through immersive gallery spaces and artifacts. During a press preview last week, 6sqft toured the 26,000-square-foot museum and its landscaped roof, located on Liberty Island across from Lady Liberty herself.
Granite used on the museum is the same Stoney Creek granite used at the statue’s pedestal
After September 11, the National Parks Service found the current infrastructure inadequate for the number of people who visit the Statue of Liberty daily. The original museum was located inside the statue’s pedestal and could only serve 5,000 people per day. According to the NPS, on a busy weekend day in the summer, more than 25,000 people travel to Liberty Island (that’s 500 people arriving every 20 minutes!).
Therefore, NPS and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation determined that a larger museum would be necessary to meet demand and provide everyone with an opportunity to visit the landmark.
The new museum is part of a $100 million restoration of Liberty Island, funded by the foundation. Designed by FXCollaborative with exhibits by ESI Design, it will allow for about 1,000 visitors per hour.
Copper fascia panels are placed at irregular intervals, made from the same type of recycled copper used during the statue’s restoration in 1986
The design of the museum was inspired by the geometry of the circular Flagpole Plaza
The museum faces the Statue of Liberty on an angle, allowing for unobstructed views of the monument and the New York Harbor. According to the architects, the angular shape comes from the irregularity of the water’s edge and shape of the plaza.
All pedestrian and seating surfaces are clad in the grey-pink Stony Creek granite; these stairs lead to the roof
The 14,000-square-foot roof features native meadow planting, which is also found around the building
Granite steps lead from the plaza to the museum and its landscaped roof. Following Hurricane Sandy, the design was revised to raise the steps, which are capable of flooding and draining, by six feet. It can withstand winds of up to 120 miles per hour. The landscaped roof features native meadow grasses that will reach two or three feet high and change seasonally. In addition to being a prime spot for selfies, the roof insulates the building, filters stormwater, and provides a natural habitat for local and migrating birds.
According to Nicholas Garrison, FXCollaborative’s project designer, the firm drew inspiration for the site from a 1939 plan by the NPS to transform the island into a French formal garden. “Think of it as a garden pavilion with a museum tucked underneath it,” Garrison said during a construction tour last October.
The welcome area of the museum features 50 stars alongside the names of big donors and five touch screens with testimonials from smaller donors
The first part of the museum includes a panoramic display of stars with the names of donors who contributed $2 million or more to the project. Digital screens in front of the display feature the names of all other donors.
From there, visitors enter the three-room immersive theater to watch a 10-minute movie told in three parts. Using drone footage and narration from journalist Diane Sawyer, the film tells the history of the Statue of Liberty’s construction and its status as an international symbol of liberty and hope. The theater spaces are chair-free, allowing for viewers to better flow from one room to the next.
Bartholdi’s statue comes to life in the museum’s engagement gallery. Visitors can experience the-by-step construction of the statue in this recreation of his workshop
The engagement gallery transports you to the 19th-century Parisian workshop where sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi constructed the statue, which he had called “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Decked out with reclaimed wooden pillars and scale models of sculpting equipment, Bartholdi’s studio comes to life.
Above, you can see small plaster models, how copper sheets were pounded on huge molds to create the various forms, as well as scale copper replica of the Statue’s foot.
Other information displays include information on the United States’ pedestal contribution, the engineering behind the Statue, the opening ceremony, and how the Statue of Liberty has been featured commercially throughout the years.
Visitors then walk through the inspiration gallery, which features 20 digital kiosks that allow guests to take photos and select images that best match with their personal definition of liberty. The images are then portrayed through a panoramic mosaic on a large screen next to the kiosks.
And the centerpiece of the museum comes near the end of the visit. The statue’s original torch is on display in a separate wing. A team from Phelps Construction Group had moved the 3,600-pound torch by crane, which had been removed from the monument in 1984, from the pedestal to the new museum last November.
Admission to the museum will be free with the purchase of a ferry ticket, which cost $18.50 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $9 for children ages 4-12.
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