So here we are, still moving along our road trip series and we see that somehow just about everything in Springfield, Illinois dovetails back to Abraham Lincoln (to start at Part 1 click here). But the meandering historic pathways and distinctive cultural aspects that bring about this amalgamation of the past and the present here is what makes it a fascinating tourism destination.
"The Great Emancipator"
The piès de résistance of the Lincoln experience in Springfield is undoubtedly the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, both entities located directly across the street from each other in the center of downtown.
The Presidential Library is primarily used by scholars, genealogists, students, and other researchers interested in Lincoln as well as the history of the State of Illinois, and contains an astounding collection of manuscripts, audio-visual technology, newspapers, printed materials and the like, including a genealogy component, programs and exhibits.
The Presidential Museum—which, according to the entity, “took almost four times as long as the Civil War that defined his presidency,” is where visitors from all over the world come to learn more about the most written about President in our history.
I could have spent hours here exploring the over a dozen galleries and exhibit spaces, each depicting a different facet of his life, pre- and during his presidency and post assassination, as well as that of Mary Todd Lincoln. The sundry of temporary, permanent and interactive exhibits are out of this world, encompassing a wide array of personal, family and presidential artifacts, photos, artifacts and memorabilia, just to name a few.
Two of my favorite aspects were the distinctive grand theaters. The state-of-the-art Union Theater features captivating special effects on a layered digital-projection screen in “Lincoln’s Eyes,” while Ghosts of the Library delves into the significance of the Presidential Library through a totally unexpected Holavision® holographic technology highlighted by impressive and magical special-effects. Both are completely different from each other and really give visitors a broad perspective of the wealth and depth of the experience they will enjoy here.
The primary focus of the Museum is divided into Lincoln life sojourns—Journey One: The Pre-Presidential Years and Journey Two: The White House Years. The first is composed of nine exhibits that share his life from his birth in Kentucky up through his stint in the White House. The second vividly details the historic yet often brutal realities of what he faced as a father who lost his son, the horrors of the Civil War, the outpouring of both admiration and downright hatred for his political various stances, and ultimately his assassination and the mourning of his death.
Each exhibit area is more fascinating than the last, but the museum really outdid itself in my opinion in Lying in State, which is a re-creation of the setting when Lincoln lay in state at the Old State Capitol. It is so poignant and gripping, that you really feel as if you are walking past and through a mourning processional, complete with a recreation of his coffin, the draperies, lighting and so forth. I hear that people often break down in tears when they get to this exhibit and I can completely see why.
Much like the movie Lincoln starring Sally Field and Daniel Day Lewis, Mary Todd Lincoln: First Lady of Controversy in the Illinois Gallery features not only a wealth of her jewelry, clothing, letters, photos and other items, but just how influential she was as his wife, in the White House, and interestingly the softer side of her, seemingly the opposite of the dynamic powerhouse she was in the public eye.
Throughout his political life, Lincoln made numerous speeches against the practice of slavery, including his first in 1837 while serving in the Illinois General Assembly at only age of 28. His stance and actions on this issue are poignantly demonstrated throughout the museum in numerous exhibits including The Slave Auction, Lincoln's Office in the White House where he deliberated with his cabinet surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation, and several others.
This is just the beginning of all that visitors will experience here at one of the best presidential museums in the country.
Next up, we’re delving into Springfield’s African American History Past and Present
To start at Part 1 click here.