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New Exhibits Unveiled at Statue of Liberty

July 6, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Americans flocking to the refurbished Statue of Liberty are discovering some new attractions in the old monument, including thousands of their family portraits - stored on video disk and retrieved by computer.

A new exhibit sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Co. gives visitors fingertip access to snapshots of about 30,000 American families, or more than 250,000 people. More are being added all the time.

The Kodak exhibit is an addition to the Museum of Immigration, a 14-year- old institution tucked into the pedestal of the statue and offering Americans a glimpse of their collective family portrait.

Downstairs from the museum is another new exhibit devoted to the history and symbolism of the statue itself. One highlight is a collection of thousands of postcards depicting every imaginable image of the statue - including Lady Liberty as Mae West, Ronald Reagan and the Mona Lisa.

Exhibits in the Museum of Immigration describe the migration of major ethnic and national groups to the United States, and describe the accomplishments of prominent immigrants.

One large area is devoted to the forced immigration of Africans as slaves, and to black American success stories. Another exhibit chronicles the story of German-Americans, and so on.

Curator Paul Kinney said older parts of the museum probably will be renovated and updated in about a year.

He believes the museum devotes too little space to the accomplishments of women and concentrates too heavily on the lives of a few prominent men. The new exhibit is likely to devote more attention to the experiences of common men and women, he said.

The Kodak exhibit gives every American family a shot at posterity.

William K. Pederson, a Kodak spokesman, said company executives dreamed up the exhibit over coffee one morning. ″Somebody thought of having a big cardboard album out there on the island. And then we said, ’Why not computerize it?,‴ he recalled.

Kodak has been collecting the pictures since 1985, transferring them onto video disks and then into a computer data base.

There is a $10 fee for each photo, which Kodak says will help it meet its corporate pledge to the statue renovation program.

Visitors stand at one of 10 television screens while a computer guides them through the selection process. They can look up families by name, by special identification number, by country of origin or by date of entry to the United States. When they’ve found the family they want to see, the picture flashes onto the screen.

The pictures range from century-old formal portraits to last year’s backyard snapshots. The Ronald Reagan family is in the computerized picture book; so are Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Pederson said the company will accept pictures for the exhibit until the end of this year. ″I would like to have millions, but realistically, if we could reach a couple hundred thousand I’d be happy.″

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