- The Statue of Liberty’s original torch was damaged in an explosion in 1916 and replaced with a replica in 1985.
- The torch recently secured a permanent home at the brand new Statue of Liberty Museum, which opens to the public on May 16.
- The designing of the museum generated questions about the definition of liberty in the Trump era.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Statue of Liberty has been missing its original torch for 35 years. In its place stands a gold-plated replica that’s 400 pounds heavier and illuminated by floodlights in the evening.
The old version, a 3,600-pound copper flame built in the late 19th century, was damaged in an explosion in 1916. For a time, the dented object stood in place while undergoing a series of renovations. But in 1984, it was taken down and sent on a worldwide tour before landing in a tiny museum in the statue’s pedestal.
Secrets of the Statue of Liberty
Now, the torch is on full display at the $US100 millionStatue of Liberty Museum, which opens to the public on May 16. We got a sneak peak at the massive object, which had to be taken apart and re-assembled to be transported to the new building.
Take a look at the torch’s long journey from construction until now.
The torch was designed as a symbol of progress.
Both the statue and its torch were designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who drew inspiration from sixteen different female figures, including the Roman goddess Libertas and Columbia, a feminine symbol for America.
The statue was built in France, then shipped to America in crates.
A boat carrying the statue’s unassembled parts almost capsized on the way to New York City.
The statue stood tall for three decades before its torch was damaged in an explosion during World War I.
In 1916, German forces aimed dynamite and other explosive devices at a munitions plant containing US-made weapons in Jersey City, New Jersey. The statue’s right arm, including the torch, sustained minor damage.
The sculptor who renovated the torch also designed Mount Rushmore — but he made a few fatal mistakes.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum replaced some of the copper with amber panes of glass, which allowed rain and snow to corrode the torch’s framework.
The torch was replaced with a shiny, gold-plated replica in 1985.
Though the new torch doesn’t look exactly like the old one, its 24-karat gold plating is actually closer to Bartholdi’s original vision.
Workers had to dig a trench to move the old torch into a museum in the statue’s pedestal.
The small museum had limited capacity, and was visited by only 20% of those who toured the statue. The new Statue of Liberty Museum is free to all members of the public who purchase a ferry ticket to Liberty Island.
At the end of last year, the torch was removed from the pedestal in pieces and carried over to the new museum.
The process took two years of planning and “was quite the undertaking,” said Doug Phelps, the president of the statue’s construction group.
It now sits on full display along the water.
The torch may be the largest artifact in the museum, but the site’s designer, Edwin Schlossberg, said it isn’t necessarily the highlight.
When designing the museum, Schlossberg said the National Parks Service gave him the challenge of “not pitching a Republican or Democratic message.”
When it came to approving the museum’s kiosks, which encourage visitors to upload a photo of themselves and identify what liberty means to them, Schlossberg said he “had to go down and talk to everybody in Washington.”
“Finally [DC politicians] realised that I wasn’t trying to advocate either message,” he said.
As the museum was being constructed in 2017, President Trump proposed a travel ban that would deny residents of some Muslim-majority nations entry to the US. Schlossberg said the ban affected his conceptualization of the museum.
“Unfortunately, the Trump thing, the Republican-Democrat thing is so challenging in contemporary life,” he said. To reduce the museum to a single controversy between two political groups “is absurd,” he said. But the designers still had to create a universal message.
Eventually, they landed on the idea that liberty is always contested. “There should be as many definitions of what liberty is as there are people,” Schlossberg said.
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