Each year, close to one million people visit Springfield to see the Abraham Lincoln sites, including Lincoln Home, Lincoln Tomb, Old State Capitol and Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Great Western Depot and, just 20 miles NW of Springfield, Lincoln’s New Salem.
The crown jewel is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. This $115 million facility, dedicated to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, is the largest presidential library complex in the nation. The Library houses the 46,000-item collection of Lincoln documents and artifacts, the world’s largest, with nearly 1,500 documents written or signed by Lincoln and handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. The Museum, dedicated April 19, 2005, has already welcomed more than one million visitors to walk through the personal and political life of Abraham Lincoln, from his boyhood to his funeral homecoming. The Central Plaza, flanked by scale models of the White House and Lincoln’s Indiana boyhood cabin, opens the journeys into Lincoln’s life. The Plaza is interspersed with realistically designed “models” of the Lincoln family and others in his life, such as Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass and Generals George McClellan and Ulysses S. Grant. John Wilkes Booth is also there, standing to the side, intently watching Lincoln's back.
The Museum’s immersion-style galleries and special exhibit areas include re-creations of many of the significant places and events in Lincoln’s life, including:
• Indiana boyhood cabin amid an oak forest
• Commercial store in New Salem
• White House front portico, Blue Room and kitchen
• Lincoln’s theater box at Ford Theater in Washington DC
• Old State Capitol in Springfield
• Lincoln-Douglas debate scene
In the Whispering Gallery, vicious rumors, gossip and political cartoons of 1860’s Washington assault the senses.
The President agonizes in his office over the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. President and Mrs. Lincoln sit
with young Willie at his sickbed, while the sounds of a State Dinner below float up through the open bedroom doorway.
The Civil War in Four Minutes, a map of the war with battle lines that continuously move, shows the changing progress of the war, while a casualty counter tracks the mounting toll–an odometer of casualties.
Two special-effects theaters transport audiences to the past where they become a part of the experience.
Union Theatre features “Through Lincoln’s Eyes, ” a portrayal of the chaotic times and events of the mid-1800s as Lincoln might have experienced them.
Some of the techniques used include:
• Cannon reverberations, rumbling seats and surround sound
• Changing wall screens depicting Civil War battlegrounds
The SBC Holavision® Theatre brings “ghosts” on stage to interact with live actors.
“Ghosts of the Library” is a lively, educational program demonstrating the pleasure of
reading and conducting library research. The program’s live actor and holographic 3D images blend past and present.
Visitors will also:
• Walk through the Illusion Gallery, a gauntlet of yelling images arguing for and against slavery; • Visit the President’s Office during a cabinet meeting; • View a 42-foot-wide Gettysburg Mural as it pans from battlefield action to the aftermath of death, from a mass burial ground to the dedication ceremony and Lincoln's famous speech
• Hear Eight Soldiers' Stories and learn the fate of four Union and four Confederate soldiers who fought at Gettysburg
• Witness the final moments of the President and First Lady together at Ford Theater
• Pay last respects to President Lincoln as he lay in state in the Old State Capitol in Springfield
Two galleries with rotating exhibits promise new discoveries and delights on subsequent visits to the museum.
The Treasures Gallery contains a rotating display of artifacts from the Illinois State Historical Library and on loan from other collections around the country. These include both historic documents and personal items that belonged to the Lincoln family.
The Illinois Gallery is an ever-changing gallery with exhibits that will explore cultural, social and political issues from both a contemporary and a commemorative aspect. These exhibits will include items from the presidential library’s permanent collection as well as visiting exhibits on loan.
Historic artifacts and personal items, plus letters and diary excerpts, some recently discovered, explore many controversial issues in Mary's life. With gripping suspense, passionate romance, triumphant successes and heartbreaking tragedy, this exhibit presents Mary Todd Lincoln’s life in rich detail.
Elsewhere in the museum, Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, a children’s space, includes period toys and activities that encourage young imaginations to soar to another place in time. A café and museum store round out the museum’s amenities. In addition, both the library and museum have function space available for public or private events rental. More than 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, who is one of the most-written about individuals in human history. Come to Springfield and discover why he has captured the world’s imagination.