The Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most iconic sites, yet it can barely handle the flood of people who visit each year. Now, renowned fashion entrepreneur and immigrant Diane von Furstenberg and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation are crowdfunding to fix that.
Some 12 million immigrants sailed by the statue on their way to Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954, when it closed. And tourists have flocked to see this hopeful symbol of the United States ever since President Lyndon Johnson declared the statue a national monument in 1965.
Indeed, an estimated 4.4 million people made their way to Liberty Island, the home of the statue, last year. But according to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1982, the current informational exhibit at the base of the statue can only accommodate a fraction of those visitors.
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Von Furstenberg, who is Belgian-American, has said she feels a connection to the statue because her mother, a Holocaust survivor, often called von Furstenberg “her torch of freedom.” That memory inspired the entrepreneur to accept the foundation’s request to join the board, she said. In October 2016, she was named chair of the foundation’s Statue of Liberty museum campaign, which is spearheading this crowdfunding effort.
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“The new 26,000-square-foot museum will create a beautiful, sustainable, new destination on Liberty Island, giving all visitors the ability to explore the statue’s inspiring story without the need for additional advanced reservations or tickets,” the campaign says.
The museum will not just be aesthetically pleasing; built into the design are safety elements to help it withstand floods, hurricane-force winds and other calamities. That’s a good thing, since it will become the home of priceless artifacts — centerpiece among them the statue’s original torch.
Construction on the museum has already begun in collaboration with the National Park Service, thanks to an endowment and previous contributions from donors. The foundation expects to complete the building and open the museum in 2019 — but it needs help to pay for the finishing touches.
The Money: There are 20 days left on the foundation’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which has set a $50,000 goal. As of publication, it had surpassed its goal by nearly $2,000. The money will be used to build out the museum’s interactive galleries and special exhibits.
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