Lady Liberty turns 125, gets high-tech gift

NEW YORK - Lady Liberty is getting a high-tech uplift for her 125th birthday: Internet-connected cameras on her torch that will let viewers gaze out at New York Harbor or see visitors on the grounds below.

The "lighting" of the so-called torch cams is one of many events planned for Friday's ceremony commemorating the Statue of Liberty's dedication on Oct 28, 1886.

The ceremony caps a week of events centered around the historic date, including the debut of a major museum exhibition about poet Emma Lazarus, who helped bring the monument renown as the "Mother of Exiles."

The day also will be marked by a naturalization ceremony for 125 candidates for citizenship representing more than 40 countries, a water flotilla and a spectacular 12-minute Macy's Fireworks display choreographed to patriotic music.

On CBS' "The Early Show" Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar described the naturalization ceremony as "very special."

(Watch at left)

"Everyone who gets naturalized to become the citizens of the United States takes on a special responsibility to be part of our country," Salazar told "Early Show" anchor Chris Wragge. "The Statue of Liberty itself is such an iconic symbol for American democracy and freedom, really the beacon and founding place of liberty around the world, so I think when people go through the ceremony here it's a very special significance for them."

Yearlong renovations will keep the statue closed after its 125th birthday party for fire-safety upgrades and the installation of an elevator.

"She's supposed to be good for another thousand years, so she'll be here a long time," David Luchsinger, the National Park Service's superintendent on Liberty Island, told "Early Show" anchor Jeff Glor during a tour of the statue's crown.

The statue, designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was given by the French government to the U.S. as a token of friendship between the two countries and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.

And while today it is known as a symbol of liberty for millions of refugees and exiles, initially the famous sonnet by Lazarus in the voice of the statue asking for "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" did not appear on the statue. It was not until 1903 that "The New Colossus" was placed on the pedestal.

The statue's webcams will offer views from the torch that have been unavailable to the public since 1916, said Stephen A. Briganti, the president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc.

Through the webcams, Internet users around the world will have four views, including a high-quality, 180-degree stitched panorama of the harbor with stunning views of Ellis and Governors islands. They will be able to watch as ships go by Liberty Island and observe as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center goes up floor-by-floor in lower Manhattan. They can get a fish-eye look at the torch itself as it glows in the night.

The five cameras, which will be on 24 hours, seven days a week, were donated to the Park Service by Earthcam Inc., a New Jersey-based company that manages webcams around the world.

The cameras put viewers on the balcony of the torch and high above the crown, said Brian Cury, the founder of Earthcam.

"This is not your dad's picture of the Statue of Liberty," he said. "This is not a view from a tourist helicopter. This is unique."

Friday's ceremony also will be marked by actress Sigourney Weaver reading Lazarus' poem.

The interior of the statue — from the pedestal down to the museum base — will close after the 125th anniversary celebration for up to a year so that stairwells, elevators and mechanical systems can be upgraded. The park itself will remain open to visitors.

Lazarus is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan, which has views of Lady Liberty. It opened Wednesday to coincide with the anniversary of the statue's dedication.

Curator Melissa Martens said Lazarus was born into the fourth generation of a Jewish family in New York prominent since colonial times. "They were some of the early people to articulate the Jewish experience in dialogue with the challenges of freedom and religious liberty," she said.

Featuring more than 83 original objects from 27 institutions and individuals, "Poet of Exiles" is the first full-fledged artifact exhibit at a major museum to robustly explore the life of Lazarus, from her work as an advocate for immigrants fleeing the Russian pogroms of the early 1880s to her pioneering support for a Jewish homeland.

Lazarus died in 1887 at age 38 from Hodgkin's disease, never having known her poem would be united with the Statue of Liberty.

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