Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lincoln Presidential Library

Later in the week we started to head home but had decided we would not drive straight through. Somehow I convinced my family to detour through Springfield, Illinois so I could soak up some Lincoln history. Time was of the essence so I decided to just see the new Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (I would only do the museum part).

It’s a great place. You follow the life of Lincoln from boy to death. Considering how much attention they devote to the Civil War his life before the war goes pretty fast. He’s just learning to read, then he’s a young lawyer and then he’s debating Douglas. While they might be going a bit fast its doubtful most people would have been too interested in his complete life story I understand the rapid rise they follow.

The White House years are laid out a bit oddly. First it’s a long gallery of how badly Lincoln was hated in the press. I guess they want to make that point really clear. Then they get into the sorrow he faced with losing a son. Then its on to the Emancipation Proclamation. They beat you over the head with this too, I guess for people uninitiated in the Civil War its necessary to bombard them with the message that people thought he didn’t do enough or did too much, that the proclamation freed no one or that it was just the first necessary step to the end. But to me it was a bit much, I know all those arguments. There was a gallery that had a life size replication of the cabinet meeting when Lincoln unveiled his plan for emancipation. That was pretty neat, in fact there are wax figures all over the museum that are laid out in nice life size dioramas. Then there is a war exhibit that has a map presentation of the war in 4 minutes. I’ve seen this before when the traveling Lincoln exhibit came to Denver last year. It also used to be on youtube but was removed. You can buy it in the gift shop but I thought $12.99 for a 4 min program was steep. If it had included copies of the other museum video I think I would have done it or if it had included images from the other exhibits since photography was prohibited in those areas. After that war room is a Gettysburg Address room, then a room that quickly brings the war to a close. Lincoln is killed and the funeral procession brings it to an end.

They show a movie called “Lincoln’s Eyes” that I almost passed up. I thought what new could I really learn. But the show was about to start and I had the time so I did it. It was a great presentation although I don’t think there was anything shown that I didn’t already know. My advice is to sit at the back of the auditorium. There are three screens that rotate new scenes, the center is obviously where the most action happens but the other two show enough different things that you really will want to sit near the back so you don’t have to turn your head as much. I think the visual presentation does a good job of showing the variety of sides of Lincoln. You should be forewarned that there are bright lights and the seats shake at times. This scared some of the little children in the theater and shocked me the first time it happened.

Springfield is amazing. It was a last minute addition to our trip so I hadn’t planned for it at all. I had no list of things to see. After the museum I ran through a few sites downtown like his law office and the Old State Capitol where he gave his House Divided speech. It was obvious that there is a ton to do in Springfield but I didn’t have the time so I grabbed brochures and hope to get back when I can devote 2 or 3 days as that’s what I think it will really require to do a good tour of Springfield.

The park across the street from the Lincoln Presidential Museum

The entrance to the pre-Civil War life of Lincoln exhibits

And the Lincoln White House entrance

Grant and McClellan sharing a cup of coffee. This was an odd choice of Union commanders to showcase as their styles were so different. But maybe that was the point of this choice.

The Lincoln family. That is John Wilkes Booth peering at Lincoln from over Mary Todd's shoulder.

Lincoln's law office across from the Old State Capitol. It wasn't open for tours when I was there, I probably didn't have time anyway.

The Old State Capitol

This style of Lincoln related marker is all over the downtown area. This one is for Lincoln's dentist but I drove past a ton of these. I bet there is a brochure somewhere that lists these as a walking tour. I bet doing this is a half day project in itself.

On the way into town I saw that Lincoln's house and the railroad depot were close by. I saw signs pointing the way to his tomb but knew I didn't have enough time to do that so I'm not sure how close that is to the downtown area.

1 comment:

Chris Evans said...

Thanks for posting the pictures of the Lincoln museum. I think the late John Y. Simon said on Civil War Talk Radio that the museum was 'Six Flags over Lincoln.' From your report it doesn't sound that dire.
Thanks again,