By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lady Liberty is getting accessories -- with five webcams attached to the torch held high in New York harbor offering views not seen by the public in nearly a century.
The webcams go live on Friday during a ceremony on Liberty Island marking the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the copper-clad Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to the people of America.
From computers afar, viewers will be able to watch live video streams of traffic, boats and airplanes in high-resolution panoramic images showing the Manhattan skyline, the city's borough of Brooklyn and neighboring New Jersey.
"For people who don't come to the Statue of Liberty, it will be a whole new opportunity for them to see the statue, what's around it and how it fits into the whole cityscape," Stephen Briganti, president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Officials closed the torch to the public in 1916 during World War I, following an explosion at a nearby munitions depot, blamed on German saboteurs, that damaged the statue.
Since then, the sweeping views have been seen only by a handful of people involved in the statue's maintenance.
"It's a heck of a climb," said Briganti, who last made the difficult ascent in the statue's right arm in the 1980s.
The cameras are housed inside steel containers slightly smaller than shoe boxes, he said.
One points directly straight down, offering an unusual view of the statue's crown and anyone milling around the statue's base some 300 feet below.
"I call that the 'Hi Mom!' view," Briganti said, suggesting that visitors to the statue might arrange to wave to friends and family at home.
Two other webcams are being set up in Brooklyn, pointing at the statue.
EarthCam, a webcam technology company based in Hackensack, New Jersey, donated the cameras. Brian Cury, the company's founder, said he hoped they would offer a fresh appreciation of what he considers to be a great work of art.
"This is my Mona Lisa," he said.
Internet users will be able to access the streams from EarthCam's website and the National Park Service's Statue of Liberty website.
Officials are planning a day of events on Friday on Liberty Island to mark the anniversary, including a reading of Emma Lazurus' poem "The New Colossus" by actress Sigourney Weaver and renditions of both the French and U.S. national anthems.
To mark the statue's role as a symbol of hope for immigrants seeking a better life in America, 125 immigrants will be naturalized as U.S. citizens as part of the celebration.
After the celebration, access to the statue's interior, including its crown, will be closed for about a year while the statue is renovated, although Liberty Island will remain open to visitors.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)