Prepare to let freedom ring at the new Statue of Liberty Museum! The 26,000-square-foot museum celebrates the Statue of Liberty’s history, influence, and legacy in the world opens to the public on the afternoon of Thursday, May 16. The Statue of Liberty Museum adds to the experience of the island’s 4.5 million annual visitors, regardless of age or nationality, spreading the story of her creation and significance. The centerpiece is the display of the Statue of Liberty’s original torch—a universal symbol of enlightenment—that was previously located inside the base of the pedestal.
The Immersive Theater
The museum features many engaging and interactive elements throughout and is enthralling for kids of all ages. The galleries inspire visitors and educate them about the Statue of Liberty in interactive and thought-provoking ways. We began our experience in the Immersive Theater, a panoramic, powerful, multimedia experience that surrounds visitors in the sweeping story of the Statue and the ideal she represents. My kids were mesmerized as we watched the three segments (each in its own theater and lasting approximately 8-10 minutes total). We were weaving through the soaring theater space, learning the rich story of the Statue’s origins and meaning past, present, and future.
Next, we were in the Engagement Gallery where visitors explore what took place in the warehouse where Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi built the Statue. A series of multimedia displays evoke the feeling of being in the sculptor’s studio, allowing guests to see the step-by-step process of Liberty’s construction, from small plaster model to the copper sheets pounded on massive negative molds to create the Statue’s final form. The highlight for the little ones is the full-scale copper molds of Lady Liberty’s foot. Visitors are encouraged to touch and explore it. My little lady had fun measuring up and seeing that she is the same size as Lady Liberty’s big toe! It is toe-tally fascinating! We enjoyed exploring and learning through artifacts, graphics, and interactive media.
Then we went to the Inspiration Gallery where visitors can reflect upon what they have seen and experienced in the museum. Using an interactive floor to ceiling digital interface, we were invited to document our visit and express our views by adding a self-portrait and curating a photo collage of inspirational images about what liberty means to each of us. We delighted in selecting our images and words and watching as they are integrated into the stunning and ever-growing digital experience called Becoming Liberty.
There is also a stunning, copper model of Lady Liberty’s face with a sign telling you to please feel free to touch the face so some little ones were giving her kisses and while yet others were trying to fit up her nose. The tour culminates with an up-close view of Liberty’s most iconic symbol – her original torch – held high for nearly 100 years and still a touchstone of the light Liberty shines from generation to generation.
At one point my littlest lady plopped down on a bench and was gazing happily out from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that boast breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty herself and the city skyline. Up on the roof, merging landscape and building, there are native meadow grasses and sweeping, panoramic views of Lady Liberty, lower Manhattan, and all of New York Harbor. The new museum adds a whole new educational, interactive, and fun dimension to a requisite to Liberty Island. Families will be exhilarated!
The new museum is part of a $100 million Liberty Island-wide beautification effort that’s being funded by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, led by campaign chairperson Diane von Furstenberg. The museum was designed by architecture firm FXCollaborative with exhibits created by experience design firm ESI Design. The structure was built by Phelps Construction Group. SBI Consultants served as the owner’s representative coordinating activities among all stakeholders.
Access to the museum is free with the purchase of a ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands. If you take any Statue Cruise boat, you disembark onto Liberty Island and the museum is one of the first buildings you encounter on the island. Tickets start at $9 for children ages 4-12, $18.50 for adults, and $14 for seniors. Children under 4 are free. Tickets include access to the ground of Liberty Island and Ellis Island and audio tours of both are included. The length of the visit and experience would vary by age. Younger ones may walk through and be done in 20-30 minutes whereas older children can easily enjoy an hour or more of fun.
For more information about the Statue of Liberty Museum or visiting Liberty Island go to statueoflibertymuseum.org and follow the Foundation on social media at Facebook/StatueEllisFnd, Twitter @StatueEllisFdn, and Instagram @StatueEllisFdn.
Jana Beauchamp is a Manhattan writer and mom of two