It must’ve been strange for visitors to the Statue of Liberty over the past 15-some-odd years, who arrived on Liberty Island only to realize there wasn’t all that much to do.
Immediately after 9/11, the National Park Service stopped allowing guests to walk up the 162 steps to Lady Liberty’s crown, citing obvious security concerns. Eventually, it reopened the walk for the public, but only for limited numbers at a time. Deciding all those visitors (a whopping 4.5M a year) deserved an extra dose of context, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation spent years building a beautiful museum, which officially opened to the public today.
Early reviews of the museum have emphasized its willingness to accurately place the statue within its at times uncomfortable history. Instead of just spitting stats and dates, it analyzes how the Statue of Liberty eventually became a broken promise. Originally gifted to the United States to celebrate the abolition of slavery, it was a symbol of skepticism for many in the decades following, as African-Americans were systematically denied equal rights.
The exhibit also points guests’ attention to forgotten histories buried in the statue’s early designs — for instance, the tablet in her left hand was once supposed to be broken chains — while showcasing various sketches, models and poems that Lady Liberty statue has inspired over the years.
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