Thursday is the grand opening of the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island and we have a sneak peek of the anticipated new destination for you. Designed by architecture firm FXCollaborative with immersive exhibits from ESI Design, the 26,000 square foot museum is one aspect of the $100 million island-wide beautification project underway by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The Museum, free for all visitors to Liberty Island, is intended as a place of inspiration for those that visit the Statue of Liberty – telling the story of the now-iconic gift from France, the values it embodies, and the legacy it still holds.
The Statue of Liberty Museum was inspired by the concept of a garden pavilion and is compromised of three main gallery spaces, in addition to a 14,000 square foot green roof. The “Immersive Theater,” whose exterior walls were shaped to mimic the folds of the Statue of Liberty, is a flow through space of three sub-theaters that show a sweeping three-part film of the Statue of Liberty narrated by Diane Sawyer. The film addresses both the architecture and design of the Statue, as well as her origin story: she is the physical manifestation of the mutual friendship between France and the United States, dating to French support during the Revolutionary War. The Founding Fathers were inspired too by the theories of democracy and freedom expounded by French thinkers and centuries later, the Statue of Liberty is a fixed reminder of those bonds, despite shifts in geopolitics. A highlight of the film is a cinematic fly-through within the Statue, something you can also experience by doing the climb to the crown.
An “Engagement Gallery” seeks to bring to life the workshop of Bartholdi in Paris on 25 rue de Chazelles in Paris where the Statue of Liberty came to life. Beyond photographs, you’ll find plaster models, copper sheets, and other artifacts that support graphics and interactive media to show the step-by-step process of the statue’s construction. An “Inspiration Gallery” allows visitors to add their own image along with other images of what liberty means for them to a digital gallery displayed on the wall.
The Inspiration Gallery
The pinnacle of this experience is a 22-foot high glass-walled room containing her original torch that overlooks the real Statue of Liberty. Long displayed in the gallery at the base of the Statue of Liberty, the torch shimmers in the natural light afforded by the new building and stands in dialogue with the new version of itself. Also in tandem, the Stony Creek granite material used in the Museum is the same as the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. The torch was moved with much fanfare last November (Untapped Cities was there to witness this moment), along with the model of the Statue’s face which now hangs from the wall of the same room.
The green roof has great 360 degree views of the surrounding harbor and will be lush with 23 species of native meadow grasses — geese are already seeking refuge. The building itself was constructed on landfill that expanded the island during World War II. The Museum is built above the 500-year flood level, responding to the increasingly urgent call to build in response to climate change, with a hollow 10-foot foundation intended to be flooded in the event of large storms. The new Museum is also designed to withstand hurricane force winds.
The groundbreaking of the museum will be featured in the new HBO documentary, Liberty: Mother of Exiles releasing this fall that will follow the Foundation’s chairperson, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg “in her quest to discover how sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s dream became a reality and what the statue means to people around the world,” according to a recent HBO press release. Furstenberg was also present at the topping off ceremony in December 2017. In conjunction with the Museum’s opening, Rizzoli New York has also published The Statue of Liberty: The Monumental Dream.
The Statue of Liberty Museum is a welcome addition to Liberty Island, showcasing the history of the Statue in ways that were not possible before. Although it is more than three times the size of the original museum that was located in the base of the Statue, the multi-part experience in the new space make it feel very manageable, almost intimate. While listening to the film, it is hard not to be inspired by the values the Statue is meant to hold. The message is clear: for at least one brief shining moment, everyone is welcome here.
You can visit the new Statue of Liberty Museum this weekend, included with your tickets to our hard hat tour of the abandoned hospitals on Ellis Island.