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In the heart of Illinois, travelers will find the state’s historic capital city that offers a small-town friendliness.
In this “Land of Lincoln,” a must-see for all ages is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. To begin, the statue in front of the museum is fascinating. Unfortunately, it is only there for a limited time. The impressive sculpture stands 31 feet tall and is called “Return Visit.” It is the work of sculptor Seward Johnson (deceased), also known for his Marilyn Monroe statue “Always Marilyn” and sculpture of the iconic kiss of a sailor and a nurse at the end of WWII called “Embracing Peace.”
The Lincoln sculpture is an amazing piece right down to Lincoln’s patent leather shoes. The statue depicts the president discussing his Gettysburg Address with a modern man in corduroys and sneakers. It was scheduled to be on display through September but with COVID-19 closures the end date is unsure. Get there quickly if you would like to see it.
This innovative museum’s 21st technology brings this 19th century president to life. Walking through the museum entrance, visitors find a plaza-type atmosphere that feels like stepping back in time to Lincoln’s childhood Indiana cabin, and up to the White House to enter the South Portico. Everything centers around the plaza, from childhood Lincoln to that fatal night at Ford’s Theatre.
The museum is divided into two sections, “The Journey — The Pre-Presidential Years” and “The White House Years.” In the early Lincoln section, visitors enter Lincoln’s childhood one-room log cabin and continue through his farewell speech as he leaves Springfield to become president of the United States.
Historians were involved in researching everything to replicate the cabin — even what trees would have been growing nearby. Two tobacco barns from the 1800s were found in storage in Kentucky and Virginia. Both were taken to Springfield and reassembled as one cabin using authentic materials.
Outside of the White House exhibit, visitors often stop to pose for a picture with President Lincoln and his family before entering through the South Portico, reproduced as it was in 1861. Travelers will view the historic presidency, the assassination events and the funeral train. Emotionally, visitors are immersed in history as they pass by a replica of the room where Lincoln lay in state at the Old State Capitol building in Springfield.
The Whispering Gallery is a hallway where things are “twisted,” and whispering voices are heard speaking rumors and unkind things about Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln. The walk through the White House depicts the death of Willie, the Lincolns’ son, the Emancipation Proclamation and more. Visitors will wind around and come upon the riveting scene of Ford’s Theatre. The details are incredible and there is a slight smile on the president’s face, one of only two times throughout the museum. Can you find the other?
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is in the Illinois State Historical Library, where there are 12 million books, documents and artifacts. With 47,000 Lincoln artifacts, it is the world’s largest collection. It is not a public library as materials cannot be checked out; they can only be used at the library. Visit alplm.org for hours.
The museum opened in 2005 and has been one of the most studied museums in the world. It is a complex of 200,000 square feet that includes an archive, galleries, presentations and experiences. It is home to one of five known copies of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, this one in the president’s handwriting.
Reserve tickets at alplm.org or by calling 217-557-5589. COVID-19 safety measures are in place.
The Land of Lincoln offers history, outdoor adventures, outstanding dining experiences and more. Go to visitspringfieldillinois.com for places to stay and more things to do.
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