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The Statue of Liberty Museum holds original torch, 'soaring' theater space

The 26,000-square-foot space offers expanded access to artifacts, content and exhibits on the history of the Statue of Liberty.

A rendering shows the inside of the new,

A rendering shows the inside of the new, expanded Statue of Liberty Museum. Photo Credit: FXCollaborative

Almost three years ago, dignitaries broke ground on the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island. Finally, it has opened.

The 26,000-square-foot space on the west side of the island, right behind the statue, shows off the original, glowing torch from 1884 and three interactive galleries within the space that are all free to visit starting May 16.

Officials from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation have given some insight into the three spaces that will tell the statue's history in thought-provoking ways.

Inside the museum, which is covered with native meadow grasses, is the immersive theater, which plays an eight- to 10-minute film that sweeps visitors up through the statue's interior and tells a brief history of its beginnings and its meanings. 

"It was a one-time approval by the National Park Service for the use of drones," said Stephen Briganti, the president and CEO of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. "You'll see pictures you've never seen before … it made me a little dizzy, but they're so unique and interesting."

The "Engagement Gallery" delves deeper with a look into the studio of statue designer Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, showing his process step-by-step from creating a small plaster model to the copper sheets he pounded on molds to create its final form.

The original torch, which lasted for 100 years before it was replaced in 1986, is located in the "Inspiration Gallery" alongside a model of the statue's face that you can touch as you enjoy panoramic views of Lady Liberty, lower Manhattan and New York Harbor.

On Nov. 15, 2018, the torch left the small museum inside the statue's pedestal and was moved by transporter vehicle across the island to the new museum site. 

There is also a special mural called “Liberty Stars” that is made from the original hand-forged iron bars (armature bars) that were used to reinforce the statue.

"They're like the statue's rib cage," Briganti said. They were deteriorating in the 1980s and were replaced with new ones, he added.

The space, which was designed by FXCollaborative with exhibits by ESI Design, is part of a $100 million beautification project for Liberty Island that was led by Diane von Fürstenberg, who led the campaign.

"The number of people who were given the opportunity to go into the statue's base dropped dramatically after September 11, so most people coming to the island didn’t get to see the museum and didn’t get to learn the details, history and importance of the Statue of Liberty," Briganti said. "We decided the time had come to build a new museum and broaden what the museum talked about in the 1980s. We wanted to make a place that didn’t have the security encumbrances that the Statue of Liberty did so that millions of people who visit here could have that museum experience."

Locals will want to check it all out, too, since it's bigger and there are more high-tech exhibits.

"It's a destination on its own," he said. "It’s pretty sensational that it is practically completed. It's very exciting." 

IF YOU GO: The museum is free, but a ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis islands costs $18 for adults, $14 for seniors and $9 for children ages 4 to 12. They can be purchased at www.statuecruises.com.

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