The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum without doubt has the most technically advanced methods of displaying information of any of the presidential museums that we’ve seen. Things as simple as seeing and hearing rain on a window at a diorama of a sad mother or the heat emanating from a cook stove is an example of the detail that is included. Two major theatrical displays feature a 17 minute multiple screen extravaganza and a holographic presentation.
The museum and the library are across from each other on Madison Ave on the northern edge of the downtown area of Springfield, Illinois. The buildings were new and opened in 2005. There is ample parking available nearby. We got there about 9:30 A.M. and spent more than 3 hours touring the various exhibits. Entry is on the southwest corner of the modern building.
A hallway leads past a gift shop and rest rooms into an atrium area. Most of the exhibits are entered off of this atrium.
We began our exploration immediately in one of the theaters with a presentation of “Ghosts of the Library”. As the name of the theater implies, holographic images capture your attention immediately and illustrate reasons for the Lincoln Library. The show is so well done that at its completion, you’re not sure whether you saw people or holographic images of people.
The second major presentation that we watched was a multiple screen movie. It was a technical marvel that not only had side by side screens but overlapping screens that blocked that view of secondary screens and overlapping screens that allowed viewing through the front screen so that several images creating a perception of depth were seen. We felt the impact of cannon in our seats when they fired on screen. After viewing the presentation at 10 A.M., we came back at 11 A.M. to see it the second time knowing that we had missed part of the show due to the many things happening.
Off the atrium to the north was “Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic”. It is a play area where adults may take children to play. There are many things to do including toys like Jacob’s Ladders, dress up dresses, and obvious Lincoln Logs.
Just beyond the “Attic” is “Journey 1” which is a walk through exhibit that begins in a one room log cabin where young Lincoln satisfied his need for learning by sitting and reading by the fireplace late at night. It illustrates the poverty of the Lincoln family and the extremely cramped living quarters that were prevalent. We progressed through the history of his mother dying and his step mother providing the love and nurturing that helped turn him into a young man. After spending several of his young adult years trying to make a living on the river, he began looking for a more fulfilling life and in trying to find it settled in Illinois. He became a self taught lawyer and the exhibit illustrates his progress into fatherhood and elected office. “Journey 1” ends as he wins the election for president with less than 40% of the popular vote.
On the opposite side of the atrium is “Journey 2 – White House Years”. The beginning of this exhibit tries to show the problems Mary Todd Lincoln experienced at the hands of society in Washington, DC. Despite having been born and raised in a well to do household, she was branded as being inferior to the matrons in the nation’s capital. Illnesses and calamity in the family kept her from being absorbed into the life. The pressures on President Lincoln mounted and are illustrated by a large display of political cartoons and columns. The cartoons were so vituperative that if used in current times, suits and recriminations would be thick in the air. The exhibit winds through the period of the Civil War and to the assassination and subsequent mourning and funeral.
Hours of operation and admissions are discussed at the Museum website.
There is a Subway restaurant on site for hungry patrons. A gift shop offers souvenirs.