The Role of the Foundation

Honoring an Icon

The Foundation works to preserve the legacy of Lady Liberty and share her story with visitors from all over the world. For more than 35 years we’ve collaborated closely with the Department of the Interior/National Park Service on restoration efforts, and together have welcomed millions of visitors to Liberty Island. As stewards of one of America’s most identifiable icons, we work diligently to develop new public initiatives and expand the monument’s educational capabilities.

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The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) began in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca, then Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, to head up an effort to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to commemorate their respective centennials.

The Foundation, working with its public partner the U. S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, first tackled the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. After almost a century weather, pollution, and sightseeing had left Lady Liberty’s torch in need of replacement and her crown’s rays in need of strengthening. An army of architects, historians, engineers, and almost 1,000 laborers embarked on the project — which also involved replacing the rusted iron armature bars with stainless steel bars, removing multiple coatings from the interior copper skin, as well as installing new elevators and an informative exhibit in the Statue’s base.

The process took two years to complete – but the Statue was indeed ready for her centennial jubilee. She was reopened with great fanfare in a celebration dubbed “Liberty Weekend.”

Since completing the Statue’s restoration, SOLEIF has pursued a series of efforts rooted in education and preservation. We’ve restored Ellis Island; supported Lady Liberty through the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Sandy; and created a series of meaningful testaments to the role of immigration in America including the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, the American Family Immigration History Center, the Peopling of America Center, and Statue of Liberty Museum, which the Foundation opened in 2019.

Today, we continue to foster, promote, and stimulate public knowledge of the Statute of Liberty to preserve her for generations to come.