Traveling Around - Springfield, IL - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in located in downtown Springfield, Illinois, just off the Business Route of I-55. We had elected to stay the night before our visit in a suburban motel and drove downtown on the morning of our visit. We happened to visit on a national holiday so that the normal work force was not present in the downtown area and we had no problem with traffic or parking. However, if it had been a normal workday I think that we would have experienced both traffic and parking problems. There are several hotels/motels in the area within east walking distance of the museum that might offer a visitor a better alternative.
The museum and the library are across from each other stradling Madison Ave on the northern edge of the downtown area. The buildings were new and opened in 2005. On the day we visited, there was 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.
The hours and costs are discussed at their website. After entering and paying the admission costs, a hallway leads past a gift shop and rest rooms into an atrium area. Most of the exhibits are entered off of this atrium.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum has without doubt 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 re-creation 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 holoagraphic recreation.
We began our exploration immediately in the Holagraphic Theater with a presentation of "Ghosts of the Library". As the name of the theater implies, holagraphic 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 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.
Off the atriuim 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 obviously Lincoln Logs.
Just beyond the "Attic" is "Journey 1 - The Pre-Presidential Years". It 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 of his stepmother 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. If the vituperativeness of the cartoons were seen 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.
There is a Subway restaurant on site for hungry patrons. A gift shop offers souvenirs.
Within a few blocks of the museum is the Abraham Lincoln Home that is operated by the National Park Service. It is the only home owned by Abraham Lincoln. Except for a few days a year, it is open around the calendar from 8:30 to 5:00. The visit to the home is free of charge but a tour ticket is needed to tour the home. The ticket can be obtained at the Visitor Center and it is best to obtain them early as many times during busy seasons, the supply is exhausted by 2:00. The last tour departs the starting point at 4:30. You must take the ranger guided tour in the home as a self guided tour is not allowed. There are two films shown. One of them is about is about the life of President Lincoln and is shown on the hour and half-hour. The other is a virtual tour of the home and is shown at 15 after the hour and 15 before the hour. Each film runs 20 - 25 minutes. Plans should be made to spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours at the home.
Several blocks encompass the area administered by the Park Service. Included in this area is a cell phone walking tour - The Lincoln's 1860 Neighborhood Cell Phone Audio Tour - where directions and commentary can be heard via cell phone in the area. There are additional exhibits in the Dean House and the Arnold House which are part of the Park Service Area. There are many brochures available on-line that can be downloaded and printed.