Lady Liberty is back.
Today, the museum on Liberty Island opens to the public after a $100 million renovation and beautification project that has been in the works for two years. The 26,000-square-foot space, built by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service, is the biggest addition to the area around the Statue of Liberty since she was first unveiled in 1886.
The museum is a low-slung building made of Stony Creek granite and bronze, the same materials that were employed to build the statue’s base. The exterior is anchored by panoramic (bird-friendly) glass windows that give gloriously unobstructed views of New York, though the best perch is atop the 14,000-square-foot “green roof” seeded with native plants. To fend off the dangers posed by super storms like Hurricane Sandy, the museum is elevated ten feet above the floodplain with walls built to sustain wind and sea.
About 4.4 million people flock to visit the Statue of Liberty each year, and those numbers surged in the months immediately following President Trump’s election, according to reports from 2017. The new museum is a big upgrade from its previous incarnation, which was built into the pedestal itself, and could only handle about 20 percent of daily visitors.
After September 11, the city ramped up security, and in 2009, visitor capacity was limited to about 4,000 per day. Although restrictions are still in place for the statue, the goal of the museum is to give more people the opportunity to learn something about the statue’s history.
The museum includes full-scale replicas of Lady Liberty’s face and feet and a recreation of the workshop in Paris where Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi oversaw the sculpture’s creation. Other attractions include a full range of liberty-themed knickknacks to illustrate the statue’s impact on popular culture. One gallery culminates in a giant screen projecting a mosaic of visitor selfies intertwined with inspirational images.
The final stop on the tour is at the crown jewel of the museum: the original, 3,600-pound torch, encircled by a protective gate.
See more photos from the inside below.