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The New Statue Of Liberty Museum Welcomes Visitors To A Redesigned Liberty Island

It hasn’t been easy to visit one of this country’s top tourist attractions. Immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty were closed to visitors. Three years later, the base, the pedestal and the observation deck were reopened after the National Park Service spent  $6.7 million in improvements to fire and security systems. Five years after that, in 2009, the crown — and the 146 narrow steps to it — reopened on the Fourth of July. Then, in August of 2011, everything shut down again for one year, reopening on the 126th anniversary of the statue’s dedication in October of 2012. The very next day, Hurricane Sandy hit, causing significant damage. Liberty Island was closed to visitors again.

With various re-openings, new security measures were put in place, and visitors often complained about the time they spent waiting to pass through several checkpoints, beginning with the ferry ride. Different types of tickets (for the Statue, the crown or for the island) were funneled through the same lines, causing confusion and congestion.

In advance of the 133rd anniversary of the Statue’s unveiling this October 28, a new museum fixes a number of those problems.

“The original torch and other historic items were displayed in rooms in the statue’s base, which added to the congestion,” says Nicholas Garrison, FAIA, of FXCollaborative, who designed the new museum.

“The new museum is available to visitors without restrictive security clearances, and there is new security screening for admission to the monument. Now, pedestal, crown and gift shop ticket holders are no longer in the same line.”

The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation privately raised $100 million for the building, which opened to the public in May.  

Sited at the opposite end of the island from Lady Liberty, the museum is an “anti-monument,” in Garrison’s words.

“We did not want to create a monumental, boxy building,” he says. “We wanted to create something more informal that is in the grand tradition of great staircases and public plazas. People can sit on or climb up the grand staircase that bifurcates the façade.”

The building, which appears to rise out of the ground, wears a green roof of native grasses. Mown just once a year, the grass has become home to birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Window glass is treated so that birds can see it. Though the island is on a migratory flyway, not one bird has struck the glass since the building was erected.

“And, the grass roof super insulates, one of the reasons the building has LEED gold certification,” Garrison says.

Granite for the museum building was sourced at the same Connecticut quarry that provided the stone for Richard Morris Hunt’s statue base.

The biggest addition to Liberty Island since the Statue itself, the museum helps convey the history and inspiring message of Lady Liberty to a new generation of visitors.

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