LADY LIBERTY: A MONUMENTAL FEAT

She has stood atop her pedestal overlooking New York Harbor since 1886.  Now Lady Liberty’s history, and an exploration of her many layers of meaning, are on display in a new building erected on the island: The Statue of Liberty Museum.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

She has stood atop her pedestal overlooking New York harbor since 1886.

Now Lady Liberty's history and an exploration of her many layers of meaning are on display in a new building erected on the Island the Statue of Liberty museum curator of exhibits and media Judy Gery Chico.

So there's been a museum in the pedestal since the 1970s.

Unfortunately after 9/11 we had to limit the number of people who could go into the monument.

It used to be unlimited.

It's a first come first serve.

People can get a pass to go in it's free.

But that resulted in about 85 percent of our visitors not getting into the monument.

The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service decided to build a separate museum so everyone would have an opportunity to learn about the statue and the history these exhibits guide visitors through is a fascinating one.

What actually starts with Edward de Laurel Lei who was a French philosopher and an antislavery activist.

And after the Civil War he felt motivated to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the United States and also to celebrate the centennial of American freedom in 1876 Laurel felt France had lost its way after the country's revolution.

He hoped this honoring of the U.S.

would inspire his countrymen so long to lay partnered with French sculptor Frederic Bartoli.

He looks at a lot of classical imagery of Liberty.

At the time there's lots of images of liberty in paintings and you know in literature and prints and some of them are actually very militant.

And he and Laurel they decide they do not want a militant statue.

They want one of reason and enlightenment.

In fact the statue's official title is Liberty Enlightening the World.

Once the model was finalized its measurements were enlarged to create full size plaster casts of the various parts of the statue.

Artisans used a process called rep who say to create the copper skin they start to create these wooden molds.

They have these flecks that fit in and they cut the slabs so that they fit around the model exactly.

So that basically then when you take the mold off and flip it over you have a negative version of the mold and then what they do is they hammer the thin copper sheets into it and then when you flip that over you basically have the form of the foot.

French architect Eugene Viola the Duke recommended adding armature iron bars fitted to the copper skin to hold its shape.

And another well-known name joined the project to help stabilize the monument.

They brought in Gustaf eyeful who a few years later after the statue went up would build the Eiffel Tower.

He was an engineer a bridge engineer and so he came up with this pylon.

With all of this truss work that then reaches out to these armature bars and goes to each piece of skin.

And so as the wind blows they flex a little bit which enables it to stand in the wind.

Gery Chico says the New York Harbor was chosen as the statue's ultimate destination because of its central location in a busy hub.

And while smaller gifts between nations were a norm.

Both members of the French and American public weren't sure what to make of this enormous tribute.

Everybody on both sides was sort of surprised by the gesture and they didn't have to fundraise so they raised the money for the statue in France and they raised money for the pedestal that the statue stands on in the United States.

Fundraising efforts in the U.S.

took the form of art exhibitions and opportunities for the paying public to see the statues torch and arm schoolchildren would collect pennies and then send them in.

There was one little girl who wrote something like Oh my God if it was up to me you wouldn't have to beg so hard.

But I don't have that kind of money.

But you know here's my nickel really.

The predominant people that built this statue were you know the ordinary folk.

Still it wasn't enough when the statue arrived.

The United States and hundreds of boxes.

There was no completed pedestal on which to rebuild it.

Hungarian immigrant and newspaper Titan Joseph Pulitzer stepped in to help.

He said to people give me whatever you want to give and dime a nickel a penny and I will put your name in the New York world and within about I think it was with under a year within about seven months.

They had one hundred thousand dollars of the remaining money that they needed.

He had increased the circulation of his paper so he was happy and and the pedestal was completed and then they were able to finish building the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated on October 28 1886 and it was a high profile event.

President Grover Cleveland attended as did protesters from boats on the Hudson River.

No women were invited to the opening.

Cept for a few wives of the prominent men and women were still struggling to have the vote.

So the suffragists of New York rented a boat and they circled the island during the dedication giving speeches.

And and drawing out the the irony of the fact that this statue is a woman and that women don't have the vote and don't have equal liberty.

Members of the African-American community were similarly frustrated with the celebration of liberty during the era of Reconstruction and continued discrimination.

A number of African-American newspapers were sort of had a very ambivalent feeling and there was one the Cleveland Gazette who had actually been very active in fundraising for the pedestal and encouraging their subscribers to contribute.

But then you know after the statue opened they were like you know maybe we need to shove the statue into the harbor until there's liberty for all the statue symbolism of the abolishment of slavery became less known an uptick in immigration and the opening of nearby Ellis Island in 1892 would result in the statue becoming a symbol of immigration best encapsulated in the famous Emma Lazarus poem that is now memorialized in a plaque on the statue.

Give me your tired your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

In the decades ahead the statue would take on a symbol of the war effort in World Wars one and two and would become a symbol for anti-war protesters during Vietnam.

Today she represents all of these things and more.

The Statue of Liberty continues to represent different things to different people.

So the museum asks in its interactive becoming Liberty exhibit What does liberty mean to you.

I think you'll see the statue from day one becoming this very meaningful symbol on all sides.

You know she can represent the United States and the liberty that we represent but also reflect the failures and the contradictions and over the years she's just taken on more and more of that kind of complex meaning.

From Liberty Island.

I'm Matty Orton for Metro focus.

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