As a child, Maria Cristina Garcia’s family left Cuba for the United States to enjoy the freedoms that were unavailable in her homeland. One of her first road trips as a new American was to see the Statue of Liberty; many of her photos from that trip show the statue in the background.
On May 16, Garcia – now the Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies at Cornell – celebrated with other historians, philanthropists and celebrities at the opening of the new Statue of Liberty Museum, which she helped plan and create as part of its History Advisory Committee.
“Who would have guessed then [during her childhood] that I would one day contribute to this project?” Garcia said. “I don’t think I can fully convey how meaningful it was for me as an immigrant and refugee.”
The museum is dedicated to the concept of liberty and all of the meanings that word holds for people, Garcia said. The advisory committee – chaired by Cornell alum Alan Kraut, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75, distinguished professor of history at American University – helped exhibit designers, members of the National Park Service and filmmakers plan the museum’s content. Included is a 12-minute film narrated by television journalist Diane Sawyer, original models of parts of the Statue of Liberty and exhibits focused on the statue in popular culture and political protest.