If you like most in central Illinois enjoy Lincoln history, add a visit to the Lincoln Heritage Museum to your list of sites to see. The museum will officially reopen April 26, 2014 at 10 a.m. The museum features traditional museum exhibits on its first floor with of Lincoln artifacts surrounded by details that tell the story of the item. The first floor also has a bit of history specific to the area. The second-floor tour offers a state-of-the-art audio and video used to walk visitors back through Lincoln’s life after the tragic events at Ford’s Theater. Timed tours of the second-floor gallery will be offered in the afternoon at the reduced fee of $2 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.
Opening remarks and entertainment will be part of the grand opening and visitors are able to walk through the museum during the morning. The walkthrough will require an hour and if interested in the afternoon tour, allow at least 90 minutes.
Ron Keller, Associate Professor of History and Political Science is also the Lincoln Heritage Museum Director. Keller offered a bit of the museum history. “The Lincoln College campus was founded on February 12, 1865. It is the only college founded for Lincoln during his lifetime,” Keller said. “Although he never formally gave his blessing we like to think he would have.”
“The museum started in the 1940’s,” Keller said. “This year we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the museum.”
Like many museums, it all started with a donated collection. Judge Lawrence Stringer willed his Lincoln and Logan County history collection to Lincoln College with the stipulation that a museum be established. At first the museum was placed in “The Lincoln Room” that was dedicated February 11, 1944, and then the collection was moved to the McKinstry Memorial Building in 1971. The collection has grown with donations that include items from Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the last surviving direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln. Today the collection has found a permanent home in the Lincoln Heritage Museum’s newly built Lincoln Center.
Keller said the renovated museum focuses on Lincoln’s character. “Empathy, perseverance and intellect are all qualities Lincoln had, that we can all live out and immolate Lincoln doing,” Keller said.
The motto of the museum is “Learn from Lincoln, Live like Lincoln”. Lincoln himself had a vision for the nation. He is quoted as stating, “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.”
Basing his vision on the founding fathers structure for the nation, he lived his life with a character that the museum is trying to profile. William Stoddard, Lincolns secretary addressed this topic and wrote, “The President is…the most perfect representative of the purely American character now in public life – perhaps the most perfect that has ever existed. This is why the mutual understanding between him and the people is so perfect. This it is which enables him to exercise powers which would never be any possibility entrusted to another man, though his equal in other respects.”
“The museum offers living history that brings characters to life,” Keller said. Taylor Studios out of Rantoul, Illinois was selected to work with Lincoln College on the museum designs. Using touch points, and pictures that first appear as silk screen paintings and them come to life, Taylor Studios brought Lincoln’s story together offering images with audio visuals. The visuals reach out to visitors showing how events in Lincoln’s life formed the person he became and emphasized how he overcame so many obstacles before reaching the Presidency.
The museum is a two-story affair with five times more space than before. Ranked as one of the “30 Most Amazing University Museum’s in the World” the new state of the art facility was relocated and redesigned at a cost of 1.6 million.
A traditional layout can be found on the first floor reflecting Lincoln artifacts in display cases that tells the story of the piece. Upstairs is a whole new world that focuses on what may have run through the 16th President’s mind as he lay in that twilight time between life and death after being shot at Ford’s Theater.
Outside the museum, a statue of Lincoln seems to greet visitors who come to learn more about his amazing life and legacy.
When first entering the Center, a wooden wagon is on display then the museum opens into the reception center/gift shop. Upstairs a plow is on display along with other artifacts that are so much a part of Lincoln’s life. The Lincoln Heritage Museum is located at Lincoln College, 1115 Nicholson Road, Lincoln, Illinois. Call 217-735-7399 or log onto www.lincolnheritagemuseum.org for information. Open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the museum is closed Sundays and holidays. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.—ages 6-15 and senior citizens.