The Statue of Liberty has a new museum -- and a podcast

CNN/ Newswire | 5/14/2019, 9:06 a.m.

Originally Published: 14 MAY 19 09:05 ET

By Lilit Marcus and Samantha Kelly, CNN

(CNN) -- Since making her American debut in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has become one of the world's most famous attractions.

And, as of this week, she has something new to show off: The Statue of Liberty Museum opens to the public on Thursday, May 16.

Some five years in the making, the new museum -- which, like Liberty Island and neighboring Ellis Island, is managed by the National Park Service -- provides a multisensory experience for the millions of people who visit every year during trips to New York.

Now, visitors who aren't able to nab a ticket to the statue's crown -- or who feel a little more comfortable staying on solid ground -- will still have other options on the island for learning about history.

Visitors to the Statue board the ferry in Battery Park in lower Manhattan after going through security screening.

In the past, they would disembark on Liberty Island and head straight to the statue's pedestal for orientation, but now they will be able to go straight to the museum, alleviating some of the congestion in the pedestal.

About 4.3 million people visited the Statue of Liberty in 2018. Tickets -- which can combine Liberty Island and Ellis Island -- begin at $9 for children and $13.50 for adults, with ferry rides and park ranger-led tours included. To visit the crown, visitors should make reservations in advance.

Interactive exhibits

Guests arriving at the new museum begin by walking through a three-part video chronicling the history of the Statue's creation before spilling out into a larger open space.

Starting with the end of the United States Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation that formally ended slavery, the video details how those events inspired French artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to create the Statue and finishes with what the Statue has come to signify both in the US and around the world.

From there, guests can visit a model of Bartholdi's Paris studio, see the Statue's original torch (which had been in storage since the 1980s), reach out and touch a copper model of the Statue's face and play with an interactive exhibit that asks visitors to take photos of themselves and share what liberty means to them in today's world.

Manhattan-based firm ESI Design took on the project of imagining the museum's interiors and exhibits.

"We tried to figure out an experience that was complementary, focused and relatively short -- because of the size of the crowds," Ed Schlossberg, president and principal designer of ESI, tells CNN Travel.

The museum reflects a changing New York City -- not just demographically but geographically.

"This building is way up because of the flooding from Hurricane Sandy," Schlossberg explains, referring to the superstorm that hit the city in 2012. "It's ten feet above the 500-year floodplain."

Following Sandy's devastation, city officials in New York worked to determine parts of the city that were at risk for future flood damage and created an open-source map for builders and residents. Their glossary defines the 500-year floodplain as "the area with a 0.2% chance of flooding in any given year."