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Revitalizing the Statue of Liberty: 300 Gallons of Paint for Lady Liberty’s Glow

The Statue of Liberty, an iconic symbol of freedom and democracy, has undergone several restorations since its unveiling in 1886. One of the most significant refurbishments occurred between 1982 and 1986, just in time for its centennial celebration. This restoration was not just about repairing the physical structure but also about preserving the statue’s historical significance and ensuring its resilience for future generations.

The restoration process was a massive undertaking, involving a team of French and American architects, engineers, and conservators. They assessed the statue’s condition and determined the necessary steps to ensure its preservation. The exterior of the statue required special attention. The statue’s copper skin had developed a distinctive green patina over the years, a natural protective layer formed by the oxidation of copper. While this patina was preserved and enhanced during the restoration, certain areas of the copper skin were corroded and needed careful removal and replacement. Skilled metalworkers cut out damaged copper sheets and welded new ones in place, ensuring the statue’s structural integrity and aesthetic appeal.

The interior of the statue also underwent significant changes. The original iron armature bars, which connected the copper skin to the statue’s internal skeleton, were replaced with stainless steel bars to prevent further rusting. The flame and upper portion of the torch, severely damaged by water, were replaced with an exact replica of Bartholdi’s original design, gilded according to his plans​.

One of the most innovative aspects of the restoration was the removal of interior coatings. The interior copper, painted “government green” in 1975, was cleaned to resemble the salmon color of a new penny. All seven layers of paint and two layers of bituminous paint used as a water sealant were removed. The removal process involved an innovative cryogenic method, where liquid nitrogen was sprayed on the paint-covered surface, causing the paint to embrittle and lose its adherent properties​​.

The restoration project was a testament to the collaboration between nations and the dedication to preserving a symbol of hope and freedom. It was completed in 1986, and the Statue of Liberty was rededicated and reopened to the public on July 4, with fireworks and fanfare. This restoration ensured that Lady Liberty would continue to stand tall, welcoming visitors from around the world and symbolizing the enduring values of liberty and democracy​​.