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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Lincoln Presidential Museum!
That's probably the best way to put it.

The newly completed Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is among the most state-of-the-art, impressive creations of its kind. A truly remarkable attraction filled with wonderful artifacts, fantastic interactive exhibits, and high-tech visuals.

Not ever being even remotely interested in history, for me to be so enamored of the place is quite a feat. I have never been to ANY museum where I felt compelled to read every word of information, thoroughly absorb every display or photograph, and become so emotionally involved with the stories and lives being portrayed until I visited this museum.

There's just no real way to describe the sensation of visiting this place. The website does both the library and museum justice (though we did not visit the library), but you really have to see this place to believe it all. You get the complete journey from childhood to his death as well as his impact in the years since his time on Earth.

They have two theatrical displays that feature high-tech visuals unlike anything I've seen before. The SBC Ghosts of the Library presentation combines live action acting with holographic 3-D effects, scrim curtain lighting, and other stagecraft that rivals anything you've ever seen in Vegas, on Broadway, or elsewhere. The Union Theatre offers a multiscreen film and 3-D staging along with interactive theatrical stimulation to bring the film truly off the screen and into your soul.

In the War Gallery you can get detailed information behind many photographic images along the wall (coupled with computer diagrams and a virtual tour) and a full-screen video presentation, The Civil War in Four Minutes (One startlingly fascinating thing to watch)

There's even a very cool Ask Mr. Lincoln section where you can punch up questions on a very wide range of topics and in the connecting room, historic footage and readings taken from Lincoln's own words that answer your questions.

Of course there's actual artifacts and items that belonged to the Lincoln family and large dioramas recreating many of the significant moments in the lives of this famous family.

One of my favorite sections was The Whispering Gallery, a very large room featuring countless political cartoons from the era, ALL of which slamming Lincoln for every move he made. Every single piece of artwork shows just how reviled he was as President and how seemingly nobody had any faith in his abilities as a leader. Everything from his policies, to his wife, and even worse, his family woes such as the deaths of his children was impuned and brought into question in the press. All of the frames around the cartoons were slanted and off center in some way, giving a funhouse effect to the place. Soon after leaving the room you are bombarded by visuals of people in period costume (playing historic figures) verbally assaulting the President and his policies. It was stunning to see and hear how such an amazing man was so completely reviled and misunderstood during his life.

You get a snootful of Lincoln if you visit Springfield, Illinois and to be honest it can get a little annoying or tiresome before too long. However, if you take a visit to this museum, you cannot be anything but awed and inspired by President Lincoln. You are left with a much greater appreciation for the man, history, and the world we live in by visiting this remarkable place. I have never been more proud to be an American than I was after visiting the museum. That pride is something many of us sorely lack in this country these days. If for no other reason, the trip was worth the admission price.


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