Another crowning jewel is coming to Liberty Island.
Leaders and dignitaries broke ground Thursday on the new Statue of Liberty Museum that will open in three years.
The 26,000-square-foot space will be located on the west side of Liberty Island, right behind the statue, and feature artifacts, exhibits and other attractions that highlight the monument’s history and its connection to America’s immigration story.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the nonprofit that maintains the island, and the National Park Service worked with a wide range of partners, including fashion icon Diane von Fürstenberg, to offer the millions of visitors another place to explore.
“When you come here in 2019, this island will be the jewel of jewels,” von Fürstenberg said.
The museum’s exterior will have a rising staircase that leads to a green roof and observation deck, perfect for scenic vistas of the Manhattan skyline. The stairs are made from the same material as the statue’s base.
The museum’s main building will have glass walls that show off the exhibits, the most prominent being the statue’s original torch.
That’s not the only vintage statue piece that will be on display. A special mural called “Liberty Stars” will be made from the original hand-forged iron bars that were used to reinforce the statue.
One of the exhibits is an immersive theater that will play an interactive movie about the statue’s history starting with the 1870s to present day.
Gideon D’Arcangelo, of the design firm ESI Design, which helped to create the exhibits, said the film focused on the statue’s status as an icon of hope for millions of immigrants who came through Ellis Island.
“Visitors will look through her eyes and see what she has seen,” he said.
Organizers said the museum is much needed, since post-9/11 restrictions have made it harder for people to get inside the monument.
Because of upgraded security and space restrictions, only 20 percent of the 4.3 million annual visitors to Liberty Island are allowed inside the statue and 7 percent make it up to the crown.
“We wanted to add to this island, a gorgeous new space that can be enjoyed by anyone,” said Nicholas Garrison, the museum’s architect.
Several generous donors, including former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Coca-Cola, came on board and helped defray the site’s $70 million cost.
Von Fürstenberg, who was in charge of the fundraising and dubbed the “godmother” of the Statue of Liberty, said it wasn’t hard to get the funding because so many people revere the monument’s history and want to promote its message of hope.
“Lady Liberty is the symbol of everything that America is about,” she said.