Liberty in the land of immigrants

On the 20th of October 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated to the United States of America by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Ever since its erection, the monument has been a symbol of pride for the nation. Overlooking Liberty Island in the New York Harbour, the design and build of the structure are deeply rooted in history and carry with it a significant metaphorical allegory for the United States and as an extension to the world.

The symbolism supersedes its design and construction. The iconic symbol is representative of the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights that the United States claimed to have founded upon. Each element is meticulous in its existence. The torch held up high signifies enlightenment and serves as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge and life in America. The broken chains around the feet reflect the nation’s commitment to liberty and equality. The global iconic statue embodies the idea of achieving success with sheer determination and hard work, leading up to success and a better life.

Timeline of restoration: The Statue of Liberty - Sheet1
Layiing the foundation stone_©wonders of the world_histoire

The Statue of Liberty underwent a major renovation and restoration process in the 1980s. The primary reason for the renovation was the need to address safety and the deterioration of the concerned construction materials that were subjected to corrosion and structural issues. The renovation project began in 1984 as a collaborative effort between the French and the American governments, as well as some private donors. The statue was systematically disassembled, restored, and/or replaced as required. The renovation was completed in time for the centennial celebration in 1996, July 4.  A group of American and French architects, conservators, and engineers decided to embark on the tedious and extremely important task of preserving the statue for the turn of the century. Peter Dessauer, a historical architect of the National Park Service, was responsible for leading the renovation process and proceedings. Initially, scaffolding was installed around the exterior and work began on the interior. Despite being virtually intact, the statue exhibited serious damage to corrosion, structural issues, accessibility, and the condition of the interior structure.

It was restored on a pedestal.

The complexity involved in the restoration process can be broken down into various sections.  In the essence and integrity of Lady Liberty, efforts were underway to bring people together and raise funds to redesign and elevate the pedestal. Assessment and planning were underway. The copper skin had eroded due to decades of exposure to the element; particularly, the corrosive effect on the exterior skin had taken a toll on its outward appearance. The pedestal is a design feat by itself, soaring above to roughly half the height of the monument. Designed by the famed architect Richard Morris, the pedestal had to undergo an extensive restoration process. Preserving the originality of appearance showcasing the neoclassical style, the internal elements were carefully disassembled and treated exclusively to achieve the desired results—the process of restoration involved replacing deteriorated materials and strengthening load-bearing components, thus ensuring stability. Modifications and replacements closely resembled the original construction, ensuring a similar aesthetic appearance.

Clothed in green, disassembled and re-clothed

The delicacy of restoring the skin of the Liberty required a combination of traditional craftsmanship, modern materials, and state-of-the-art scientific preservation techniques. The weathering of the copper skin over the years had subjected it to discoloration of the skin.

Timeline of restoration: The Statue of Liberty - Sheet2
Statue of Liberty with fully developed patina_ ©

 The corroded skin was carefully removed by cutting out damaged copper sheets and preparing the underlying surface for repairs. Skilled metal workers used welding and soldering techniques to attach the new copper sheets to the skin. A distinctive green color called the Patina began to appear on the exterior shortly after 1900, which is a naturally formed protective layer caused by the oxidation of copper. The assigned engineers studied the effects of Patina on the structure and concluded that the layer forms a protective coating on the stature.  was preserved and enhanced. To prolong the life of the skin, protective coatings and treatments were often applied to shield the surface from environmental factors such as moisture, pollutants, and saltwater.

Interior structure and supports

While the restoration process proceeded, the United Nations declared the monument a World Heritage site. The statue’s internal framework was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Built out of iron pylon and steel, the skeleton allowed for the outer copper skin to move independently to endure adverse wind and climatic conditions. The renovation process ensured seamless accessibility within the interiors. Modern engineering techniques were used to enhance structural stability. Elevators, staircases, and other circulatory methods were introduced.

Restored and revived

The original deteriorated torch underwent a meticulous process of assessment, design, and construction. Due to its weathered state, a decision was made to replace it with a new torch made from copper sheets, matching in proportion, scale, and details. Covered in 24-carat gold leaf, the new torch replicated the symbolic essence of the initial appearance. The restoration process for the statue was completed in time for the centennial celebration on July 4, 1986. The Statue of Liberty was officially rededicated and reopened to the public. The comprehensive restoration effort, which included the restoration of the outer skin, interior framework, pedestal, and various other components, marked a significant milestone in preserving the statue’s historical significance.

Timeline of restoration: The Statue of Liberty - Sheet3
The Statue of Liberty’s original torch_ ©MSNBC

War, damage, and the light of hope

During World War I, on July 30th, 1916, a disastrous explosion on the Black Tom peninsula in Jersey City, part of Liberty State Park, resulted in minor damages to the statue. The explosion resulted in the initial temporary shutdown of the narrow climb to the torch, citing public safety reasons; the access, however, has remained closed. In the same year, Ralph Pulitzer, a publisher, began collecting funds for installing an exterior lighting system. Power cables designed underwater brought in electricity from the city, and floodlights were positioned along the periphery of the walls. On December 2, 1916, then-president Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the lights by pressing the telegraph key, illuminating an era of life and hope. The restoration process stands as a good example of preserving, valuing, and enduring cultural and historical landmarks. Each phase of restoration exemplified a harmonious blend of historical accuracy and modern engineering. This endeavour not only safeguarded an iconic monument but also showcased the profound connection between past and present.

Reference List:

Glassberg, D. (2003). Rethinking the Statue of Liberty: Old Meanings, New Contexts. [online] Available at: (n.d.). Pandemic Closing – Statue of Liberty – Historydraft. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Aug. 2023].

Blog. (n.d.). The Statue of Liberty’s Story in a Timeline. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Aug. 2023]. Editors (2009). Statue of Liberty. [online] HISTORY. Available at: (2016). Restoring the Statue – Statue Of Liberty National Monument (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Available at:

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. (2020). Overview + History | Statue of Liberty. [online] Available at: (2013). Construction of the pedestal of the statue of Liberty. [online] Available at:

Frenkel, K.A. (1986). Computers, complexity, and the Statue of Liberty restoration. 29(4), pp.284–296. doi:

Statue of Liberty. (1937). Proceedings of the IRE, 25(5), pp.522–522. doi:


Afnan Ashraf is an artist, architect and an educator. She is the principal architect at TwoPoints ArtLab and a founding member of Coearth Foundation. Afnan excels in developing brand identities, conceptual storylines, and website content. She emphasises on a research based approach fueled through collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.