Lincoln Presidential Museum, Library and Tomb

Lincoln Museum

September 30, 2018

I found this museum in downtown Springfield, Illinois a fascinating place to visit. As usual for us, we spent the entire day there and had more than enough to keep our interest.

There were two main exhibit halls dedicated to Lincoln: the first examined his early life through his election as president while the second covered his time as president. A third exhibit hall was dedicated to Illinois’ bicentennial and to the four presidents that lived some part of their lives in Illinois: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, and Obama. Each exhibit hall had elaborate dioramas and artifacts.

We also saw a “near” holographic film. There was a physical stage set behind a gauzy curtain. When the movie started, the characters appeared to move on the stage. It was quite different from anything I had ever seen.

The museum had a very nice play area for kids. They had Lincoln logs, a huge doll house, books, and games from the mid-1800s.

Lincoln’s early Life

Lincoln in the White House

The museum had so many excellent exhibits it’s difficult to highlight just a few.

I especially liked the diorama of Lincoln lying on a couch in his office and reading a paper while his two boys, Willie and Tad, ran roughshod on his work area.

The early life exhibit included his birthplace in Kentucky, his time as a storekeeper, postmaster, and surveyor in New Salem, Illinois, and his career as a lawyer and politician in Springfield, Illinois. Quite a bit of the early life exhibit space dealt with the growing conflict over slavery and Lincoln’s approach to it. While he was not an abolitionist he did abhor slavery and wanted to stop it from spreading to new states and territories. His “conversion” to abolitionist was slow and by degrees.

What if they had television back in 1860? What would each candidate’s political ad look like? This video exhibit was a studio control center where ads from each of the four 1860 presidential candidates were broadcast.

Another exhibit was a Q&A with Lincoln. You could “ask” a question (from a programmed list of course) and Lincoln would “answer” it. Much of what he had to say was quite profound and could easily apply in today’s world. There were many more questions and answers than even I had time for.

During the war, Lincoln was often pilloried by the press. One exhibit displayed dozens of political cartoons lampooning Lincoln, his generals, and cabinet secretaries.

Another video exhibit showed a map of the United States with the Union states in blue and the Confederate states in red. The video showed a timeline of the Civil War with explosions marking the location of the major engagements. As the war ebbed and flowed the red-blue border shifted as first one side gained an advantage only to lose it to the other. In one corner was a running tally of Union and Confederate casualties. As time “marched on” the casualty count grew at a faster and faster rate.

A poignant exhibit was a diorama of Lincoln’s dying son, Willie, lying in bed in his White House bedroom. Mary Lincoln sits on the bed and tries to comfort her son. Abraham Lincoln stands in the bedroom doorway holding a doll in his hand, unsure of what to do, and unable to help his son. His sense of helplessness was palpable.

Another diorama showed John Wilkes Booth sneaking into Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater, seconds before Booth shot Lincoln in the head. You either want to hold your breath or yell, “Look out, he’s got a gun!”

A final sobering exhibit was a recreation of Lincoln lying in state in the old Illinois capitol.

Lincoln Presidential Library

October 2, 2018

The Lincoln Presidential Library, right across the street from the museum, is a working research library that contains much more than written works.

Lincoln Presidential Library

The library’s collection contains over 12 million items, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, reports, newspapers, oral histories, photographs, audio tapes, and videotapes that cover the history of Illinois.

The only area accessible to the public was the first floor. That floor had a small exhibit area containing statues of Lincoln while pictures and paintings lined the hallway. There was a small library open to the public on that floor but we decided not to go inside. Knowing me, I would have never left.

Lincoln portrait

Lincoln’s Tomb

September 30, 2018

Lincoln’s tomb is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. In addition to Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four children – Edward and William, who died before he did, and Thomas, who died in 1871 – are buried there.

Exterior of Lincoln’s tomb

President Ulysses S. Grant dedicated the tomb on October 15, 1874. The tomb’s exterior is of granite and the tip of the obelisk is 117 feet high. A bronze statue shows Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation. An eagle on the plaque beneath the statue holds the broken chain of slavery in its beak. The tomb is ringed with shields, one for each state, connected by a solid chain to symbolize an undivided nation. Statues at the corners of the obelisk’s base represent the four major armed services – infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy – that fought in the Civil War.

Tomb detail

Marble hallways with Lincoln statues at each corner lead to and from the tomb itself.

Lincoln’s tomb

One interesting plaque lists Lincoln and his direct descendants – children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The last direct descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, a great-grandchild, died in 1985.


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