One of Rooster and my favorite Springfield attractions is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. We knew it would be the highlight of our adventure. I expected to see a crowd of people after we strolled through the door. The biggest surprise of the trip was discovering the museum nearly deserted. A few visitors wandered around, but it felt like more employees were in the building than out-of-town tourists
The Plaza at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
When visitors walk into the large plaza, they find themselves surrounded by all things Lincoln. An exhibit to the left is a replica of his childhood home in Indiana. On the right-hand side of the large room, the visitor will find the porch of the White House the way it was when the Lincoln’s lived there. Directly in front of the visitor is the union Theatre. I suggest a visitor start their tour there. In the middle of the floor, lifelike statue representatives of the Lincoln family wait to greet visitors.
Our Experience at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Rooster and I started our journey at The Union Theatre. We almost missed the showing, but two ushers waved us through the door. The story told through the eyes of an artist’s eyes commissioned to paint Lincoln’s portrait becomes a spectacular event. The movie tells the story of Abraham’s presidency, with realistic sound effects and holograms, including the artist telling the story. I highly recommend starting your visit at the Union Theatre.
Lincoln’s early years
Then Rooster and I walked through a lush display of foliage to enter the Lincoln cabin. The first display showed young Abe up late at night reading by firelight as his family sleeps. This section of the museum is dedicated to Lincoln’s early years. It moves from his flatboat trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he witnessed a slave auction—seeing the tragic selling of human beings formed Lincoln’s views on slavery. Displayed in chronolgicl order are Lincoln’s venyture into the dry goods business, law practice, the courtship with Mary Todd, and the Licoln/Douglas Debate. This part of the exhibit ends with modern television announcers commenting and announcing the results of the 1860 presidential race. By the way, Lincoln won, and states started succeeding from the Union.
The Presidential years
In the next part of the exhibit, we entered a replica of the White House. We walked past angry voices criticizing Lincoln. These angry voices demonstrated how people disliked the President. showed how unpopular he was during his presidency. It seemed like he could do nothing right. Visitors view an upstairs White House bedroom where Willie Lincoln lay dying while a party happened in the rooms below. You next moved into the kitchen, where the African American servants’ voices seemed to flow through the walls. Rooster and I walked past a room displaying a meeting between Lincoln and his cabinet. We visited room showing historical facts about the Civil War and emerged into a celebration of the end of the conflict.
Ford’s Theatre and the assassinated brought a sadness to the museum visit. The exhibits gave the museum visitor the impression they had a front row seat to the assignation. I found it eerie to see a replica of Lincoln’s body lying in state. The final stage of the exhibit showed Lincoln coming back to Springfield.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s gowns
Mary Todd Lincoln’s gowns are my favorite exhibit in the museum. It is the story of the dressmaker who sewed those gowns I find fascinating. Elizabeth Keckley was a former slave who bought her freedom with loans from her customers in Saint Louis. These women valued her skill with a needle. She moved to Maryland after she repaid the loans. Then she went to Washington, DC. Her dressmaking skills, sought after by the important ladies in town, allowed her to employee twenty people in her small Washington DC seamstress shop. The important women in Washington all wore dresses made by Keckley, even Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis’s wife. Keckley became Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant. Keckley wrote a book entitled Behind the Scenes that caused controversy because it violated the time’s Victorian codes and racial segregation lines.
There are so many displays in The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum it is hard to take it all in. If you are ever in Springfield, Illinois, you should visit The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. You will find yourself immersed in history. The thing I like most about this museum is it examines the man behind the myth. Lincoln age beyond his years while in the White House. His views on slavery and African American people changed over his lifetime. He was a man who stood by his convictions in the face of opposition. He also suffered from sever bouts of depression. Our 16th President persevered even though he held the weight of the Union on his shoulders.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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