I recently visited the Presidential Library for Abraham Lincoln, #lincolnmuseum who I can say with ABSOLUTE honesty is the ONLY republican I would have ever voted for. But, I digress. The visit to the museum was stunning and amazing. #stunning
Allow me to give you a little history. When Al and I lived in Boston, we visited our first Presidential library, the JFK Museum #JFKmuseum. Then after moving to Iowa, we discovered that the Herbert Hoover #hoovermuseum museum is located just outside of Iowa City. Now, about two weeks ago, we ventured to Springfield, IL to see the Lincoln library. This museum is slightly different from the two previous ones as it is not part of the official "Library" system established by our government. That didn't take away from the experience in any way, shape or form. The Museum and the Library right across the street were still wonderful to visit and I throughly enjoyed my day there.
The historical account alone is chilly to behold. The museum is divided into two parts, before Lincoln takes office and after. The before part is quite interesting. There are several "rooms" set up as dioramas complete with life-sized figures of Abe at several stages of his life. The most chilling of these dioramas is the one about slavery.
I have to admit, it was very chilling to see an image like this. From the moment I saw this, I felt myself gasp slightly. It's such an honest and shameful image to depict that I was at a loss for what to do. Looking at something like this through 21st century eyes, well it's just almost impossible to believe that this is how we treated anyone. I was intrigued and disgusted at the same time. And these figures were done very well because you can see the pain, anguish and hurt in the faces of the woman, the boy and the man who'd just been sold. Just absolutely heartbreaking.
After seeing the image of slavery, you go into Lincoln's life of his meeting Mary Todd. Then you pass briefly into his failed political career and the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Now, there was another staging of the debates and I was able to get pretty close to those figures and I must admit, I was embarrassed for the people who run this museum because both the Lincoln and Stephen Douglas figurines were covered in dust. And I mean covered. There was easily three layers of dust. It was sad to see such an amazing place like this not cleaning. After that, you walked through a room that attempts to relate the 1860 presidential campaign to modern audiences. Someone has made mock ads for all 4 presidential candidates. I was totally turned off by this section since it seemed to break away from the way the museum had been teaching it's patrons about Lincoln. It seemed cheap, sleazy and a lazy way to describe the presidential race of 1860. I really wish it could have been done is a better and more imaginative way instead of playing to the lowest form of education. I guess I just really wasn't a fan.
After that, it was on to the White House. Again, it was set up with separate rooms, each telling a different "story" about Lincoln's presidency. You walk in through a White House facade and are greeted by Mary Todd Lincoln being dressed by her servant. Then for some inexplicable reason, there are six dresses surrounding her in a semi-circle of her "counter-parts/other women of Washington society". It seemed odd and out of place. After that, you walk into a room that has been designed like a fun house with slanted and oversized doorways. All along the walls are oversized and distorted picture frames with political cartoons of Abe. If there would have only been a few (less than 20) this would have been effective to show how he was truly perceived by most of the country. The sad fact is that there were easily more than 50 along the seven walls in addition to odd/creepy music. Again, it was too much. I mean, to put this in perspective, I don't think the future Barack Obama Presidential Library is going to have almost three rooms of political cartoons about how much part of the country hated him. It was overkill and completely unnecessary. I was under the impression that this museum was to celebrate Lincoln, not to mock him at almost every turn. I typically like to read everything I can in a gallery but I walked past most of these cartoons because it was overkill.
Turning the corner out of the hall of horrors, you come into this room. Let me say, the detail of this set up was fantastic. The rest of the Lincoln White House years was set up like this. You went from room to room showing different points of his life while in the White House. I loved seeing all of this.
This is the Emancipation Proclamation room. I love this image. After this, you walk into a room about the Civil War. They show a 4 minute video showing the entire Civil War and all the major battles. I learned so much and it was done simply on a map with constantly moving lines showing where the troops were at all times. Then you get to see three walls of pics from the Civil War.
At the base of the center wall (pictured) are three computer touch screens that allow you to touch a picture and see it up close. Fascinating. And so simple. Of course, all this leads up to Lincoln's assassination.
Again, the imagery is phenomenal. You can see John Wilkes Booth sneaking into Lincoln's box. After we were done at the museum and gift shop (who can resist buying some souvenirs), Al and I went across the street to a special display of movie sets and costumes from the movie Lincoln. It was in the train depot. We had to run over there since we were about ten minutes away from clothing but luckily, it was a small display and great to see.
Overall, I loved this museum. There were also two theaters where you could see shows about Lincoln. The first was called, Through Lincoln's Eyes and the second was about Lincoln's Library. Both are worth seeing. I'm glad that Al and I took some time off of work to see something as important as this. It makes me want to see most of the Presidential Libraries. I say most because I have no desire to see the Reagan museum (long story for another time).
After a long day of driving (2 hours each way through a VERY non-direct route) my husband and I decided to watch the movie Lincoln. It just helped to put the entire day into perspective. It was great to see movie screens of Lincoln talking to his advisers when I had just seen the diorama depicting the exact same issue. I'm typically not a huge Daniel Day-Lewis fan since he gets a little too crazy when doing a movie but I found that he was pleasant and interesting to watch in Lincoln.
I have discovered that I love history. I love learning about where we were as a country and how we got to where we are. I find it is the only way we can move forward. I'm not saying we need to live in the past but we have to know what happened in order to learn from it. This museum doesn't shy away from slavery and depicting images of it which I greatly appreciated. Slavery is part of our history. We have to know and acknowledge that in order to truly learn from it and move on. Unfortunately, it appears that we haven't moved on too much with all the recent protests and nonsense around NFL players kneeling during the anthem (I support you Colin K.).
I truly believe that to move forward as a society, we have to look at our past and at the very least, acknowledge what we have done and gone through. Yes, we made MAJOR mistakes in our past. Every society and country has. Slavery was the defining issue of Lincoln's presidency and for some reason, its remnants are still slapping people in the face more than 250 years later. That's embarrassing, if you ask me. But, I still find it's important to go and see how things were looked at during the time of Lincoln. By doing that, I saw just how ridiculous the arguments for slavery were. It reminds me a lot of the issues #LGBTQIA people face now. I hope that in the not so distant future, we will look back at our time now and just shake our heads at the ridiculousness of it all.