Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Saturday

We visited the new Lincoln Presidential Museum and the adjoining Presidential library.

The museum is state of the art in terms of it's presentation with lots of multimedia, and even some startling special effects - all very high quality technically, and in fact it turns out that much was designed by Disney. That sounds as if it could be awful in terms of either dumbing down or romanticising/mythologizing the content. But that wasn't the case. The content was high value, placing Lincoln in context (or rather the several historical contexts over the course of his life and career). Particularly during the section covering the Civil War period, it stressed the complexity and variety of contemporary responses to the situation and to Lincoln himself. It was informative and often very moving.

It took us about three hours to go through, and there are areas I would like to return to. Just one example: one room had a wall of photographs of people from the Civil War period: men, women, Black, White, northerners, southerners, the cross section was very inclusive. On touch screens, you could pick a photo, and then read more information that individual. I could have easily spent an hour in that area alone.

The library next door is a major archive, and appears to be very open to almost anyone wanting to do research on the period.

In the afternoon we went to the Lincoln home.

This is part of a small but wonderful national park - just a couple of blocks in the middle of the city. There is a good visitors center, the street has been restored as closely as possible to it's appearance during Lincoln's day, with what original buildings remain in place maintained (though not open). We had walked down the street on Friday evening after dark - the only people in the place. On a warm summer evening with fireflies flickering the effect was almost magical. Our actual tour through the house on Saturday was a bit crowded and rushed, with a young guide who seemed just a bit too bored. I'm glad we had done this once before, a few years ago, with a much better guide. But it was still wonderful to be there.

We also went out to the tomb/monument. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of that. The monument is quite immense. You enter at the base into a small rotunda, walk quietly around a circular hallway to the actual burial place at the back, then continue around again to the rotunda. A volunteer is posted there, so far as I know always a veteran, who is willing to answer questions, but the emphasis is on the immediate experience, quiet and reverential, rather than informational - which seems as it should be.

No comments: