Tourists relieved that national monuments are still accessible from New Jersey despite federal shutdown Marsha Stoltz, Staff Writer, @Marsha_Stoltz
Musical performances and speeches kicked off a dedication ceremony Thursday for the new Statue of Liberty Museum, a $100 million project that highlights the history and meaning of Lady Liberty.
The museum opened to the public at noon after a one-hour outdoor ceremony where members of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation spoke. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made an appearance hours after he officially launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination to run for president in 2020.
In his speech, de Blasio said the country is going through an “identity crisis,” referring to the nation’s division over immigration. President Donald Trump’s administration has ramped up enforcement on illegal immigration, and on Thursday unveiled an immigration proposal that would favor immigrants’ skills over family ties.
“This museum, like the Statue of Liberty itself, is a beacon of hope, of unity, and of understanding. It tells a story, and it’s not just a story of a monument, it’s a story of a people, it’s the story of everyday people, working people,” he said. “…Today, with that history in mind, we have to acknowledge that we are grappling with a set of realities right before our eyes, the America of 2019 needs this museum and needs everything that this museum and this statue represent.”
A groundbreaking for the museum was held in October 2016, and the construction was paid for with funds raised through a public campaign. The museum was “the most important project” to be undertaken on Liberty Island since the major restoration of the statue more than 30 years ago, John Piltzecker, the superintendent of the National Park Service, said.
Albert Bellas, board chairman of the foundation, said the board wanted to enhance visitors’ experience at the island.
“Our wonderful new museum provides more visitors than ever before the ability to immerse themselves in our shared American heritage, values and ideals,” he said. “The Statue of Liberty belongs to all of us. It is the greatest symbol of the American dream, of individual freedom, and personal opportunity in the world.”
P. Dan Smith, deputy director of the National Park Service, said until the museum’s opening, only 20 percent of its 4.5 million visitors a year were able to experience the interior of the statue, where a small museum is located.
“By relocating, updating and expanding the museum we will offer all the visitors to Liberty Island a richer experience, and an opportunity to understand the history and significance of this important monument,” he said.
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The museum, at 26,000 square feet, is filled with historic relics, including the original torch, which was replaced in 1986. It also contains interactive exhibits.
The museum is divided into three sections: a walk-through multimedia presentation in the Immersive Theatre; the Engagement Gallery, where traditional and interactive visits expand on the statue’s construction; and the Inspiration Gallery, where Lady Liberty’s original torch centers a glass-enclosed space offering panoramic views of the statue and the New York skyline.
Moments after Cassi Berry, of Michigan, exited the museum on Thursday she described the experience as “cool.”
“The interactive screens make you feel like you are part of something more,” she said.
Duangporn Agkanidad, of Thailand, was visiting New York for the first time and said she didn’t know the history of the statue until she visited the museum.
“I think if people come in and don’t know the story of her, they will definitely learn more,” she said.
Lidia Garcia, of Los Angeles, toured the island with her 9-year old daughter, Debbie, and Garcia’s sister, Ingrid, 10. She had not yet gone into the museum and didn’t realize it was opening day.
“This is something marvelous,” she said.
Broadway artists performed, including Javier Muñoz from the musical “Hamilton,” who sang a song titled “Give Me Your Tired.” Lilli Cooper of the show “Tootsie” concluded the performances with her rendition of “God Bless America.”
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