Preview

Museums & Heritage

A look inside New York's new Statue of Liberty Museum

and

America's most famous work of art gets a dedicated $100m exhibition building

After two and a half years of construction, a new Statue of Liberty Museum will open to the public on 16 May on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, where the colossal statue has beckoned to newcomers since 1886. The 26,000 sq. ft one-storey museum, which was funded by $100m in donations, aims to educate visitors about the history of the statue through an immersive theater experience as well as exhibits like plaster models tracing the statue’s design and construction by the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. Visitors will be invited to express themselves by stepping up to a kiosk for a photographic self-portrait and choosing inspirational images that are then projected with each portrait on a giant screen. The tour culminates in a gallery viewing of the statue’s original 3,600-pound torch, which was replaced with a replica in 1986. Even more striking, however, are the panoramic views of the New York skyline from the museum’s roof. “The meaning of liberty is always contested,” says Edwin Schlossberg, president of ESI Design, which planned the immersive exhibits. “What we wanted to do was make an exhibition space that would encourage people to reflect.” Admission is free to anyone who purchases a ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis islands.

The new Statue of Liberty Museum viewed at sunrise. The building designed by FXCollaborative, with experience and exhibit design by ESI Design, will allow for expanded access to artifacts, content and exhibits on the history of the Statue of Liberty, its original concept, design, construction, and 1986 centennial restoration.
Photo: © David Sundberg / Esto

The new Statue of Liberty Museum, designed by FXCollaborative, with experience and exhibit design by ESI Design, allows for expanded access to objects, materials and displays on the history of the Statue of Liberty, its original concept, design, construction, and the 1986 centennial restoration

Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi's early models for Liberty Enlightening the World
Photo: Helen Stoilas

Some of sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi's early models for his statue for New York, which he called Liberty Enlightening the World

A display shows how the statue was built using plaster moulds

A display reimagining Bartholdi's studio shows how the statue was built using plaster moulds

A replica of Lady Liberty's foot, inside the museum

A replica of Lady Liberty's foot inside the museum shows how the copper-skinned statue appeared before it developed its familiar verdigris patina

A model shows the iron armature supporting the statue, built by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel

A model shows the iron armature supporting the statue inside, built by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel. A staircase in the middle allows visitors to climb up to a viewing platform in the crown

Left: a print shows Bartholdi with the American fundraising committee, including the publisher Joseph Pulitzer; centre: an 1883 exhibition helped raise $15,000 for the statue's pedestal and included Emma Lazarus's poem The New Colossus; right: Bartholdi wrote and sold an illustrated account of the statue's construction to raise funds for the pedestal in the US

Left: a print shows Bartholdi with the American fundraising committee, including the publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Centre: an 1883 exhibition helped raise $15,000 for the statue's pedestal and included Emma Lazarus's poem The New Colossus. Right: Bartholdi wrote and sold an illustrated account of the statue's construction to raise funds for the pedestal in the US

A replica of the statue's face, and the pieces of the original torch, are moved into the new museum
Courtesy of the Statue of Liberty Museum

A replica of the statue's face, and the pieces of the original torch, were moved into the new museum before the opening

Visitors can touch a replica of the statue's face, also moved to the museum from the pedestal gallery

Visitors can touch a replica of the statue's face, moved to the museum from the pedestal gallery

The original torch was once displayed inside the pedestal but because of space constraints, only a fraction of visitors could see it. It was carefully disassembled and moved into the museum before the opening

The statue's original torch, which was awkwardly refitted with stained glass in 1916 and illuminated from within, was damaged by the elements and removed in 1984. It was replaced with a solid gilded torch that is truer to the artist’s intent for the centennial restoration

The original torch, which was awkwardly refitted with stained glass in 1916 and illuminated from within, was damaged by the elements and was removed from the statue in 1984

The original torch was once displayed inside the pedestal but because of space constraints, only a fraction of visitors could see it. It was carefully disassembled and moved into the museum before the opening

Since it was installed in New York Harbour in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of American identity, and its image has been reproduced in many forms

Since it was installed in New York Harbor in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of American identity, and its image has been reproduced in many forms

The view from the roof of the Statue of Liberty Museum, giving a new perspective of Lady Liberty. Merging landscape and building, the museum’s roof is planted with native meadow grasses that create a natural habitat for local and migrating birds. The museum anchors the formal pedestrian mall and extends up to and on top of its structure by way of monumental granite steps, which culminate in sweeping, panoramic views of the Lady Liberty, lower Manhattan, and all of New York Harbor.
Photo: © David Sundberg / Esto

The view from the roof of the Statue of Liberty Museum, looking towards Lady Liberty, lower Manhattan, and New York Harbor