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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum documents the life of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, and the course of the American Civil War. Combining traditional scholarship with 21st century showmanship techniques, the popular museum continues to rank as one of the most visited libraries. It is located in Springfield, Illinoismarker.

Record attendance

Since its opening in April 2005, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum has ranked as America's most visited state-controlled presidential museum. In about six months the museum generated about $1 million. In less than twenty-one months, the museum received its one millionth visitor.


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum has been recognized with two awards: a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Themed Entertainment Association, and an award from The Lincoln Group of New York, for "being the greatest achievement in America to encourage the study and appreciation of Abraham Lincoln and the times in which he lived."

Museum exhibits

Lincoln Family in the Museum Entry Plaza
Slave Auction Scene
Ford's Theater with John Wilkes Booth
The museum contains life-size dioramas of Lincoln's boyhood home, areas of the White Housemarker, the presidential box at Ford's Theatermarker, and the settings of key events in Lincoln's life, as well as pictures, artifacts and other memorabilia. Original artifacts are changed from time to time, but the collection usually includes items like the original hand written Gettysburg Address, a signed Emancipation Proclamation, his glasses and shaving mirror, Mary Todd Lincoln's music box, items from her White House china, her wedding dress, and more.

One of the museum's permanent exhibits, Campaign of 1860, features late "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert. In addition to its exhibits, the Lincoln Museum runs two special effects theater shows, Lincoln's Eyes and Ghosts of the Library. Both shows run several times an hour.

Burbank, California based BRC Imagination Arts, led by Bob Rogers, was responsible for all of the permanent exhibits and presentations, music, theaters, lifelike figures and full-immersion historical settings.

Debate over exhibit design and education

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum quickly became one of the most talked about, studied, and debated new projects within the museum design profession. The museum has received great attention from within the field of museum design and historians for its use of modern technology, theatrics, and high-fidelity figures to tell the Lincoln story, generating larger than expected attendance, enthusiastic visitors and a sharp boost to the regional economy, including increased attendance at surrounding historical attractions. But museum traditionalists have disapproved of this departure from a static display of glass-encased artifacts. Traditionalists such as Southern Illinois University historian John Y. Simon have said the popular approach, borrowing presentation technologies from entertainment, trivializes the subject matter. Simon calls the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum a "Lincolnland."

Other academics applaud the Lincoln Museum's revolutionary approach. John R. Decker in the Journal of American History sees benefits in using 21st century communication methods to capture the public's imagination, drawing audiences to educational subjects. He writes:

"Like any other modern collection (the Lincoln Presidential museum) has an audience base that extends far beyond specialists and academics. Rather than merely pandering to the public or dumbing down history, the ALPLM intelligently and compellingly uses visual culture to meet its mission as a public pedagogical institution. The museum addresses complex historical material and opens the historical discourse to a wider audience than would be possible through more conventional means."

The scholarship behind the content and design for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum was a collaboration between international exhibit designers, BRC Imagination Arts, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), and a content team assembled by state historian Dr. Thomas H. Schwartz. This content team included the world's leading Lincoln scholars, Pulitzer Prize winning historians, and Illinois school teachers representing the fourth, seventh and eleventh grades. A key goal of this collective was that exhibits promote a greater level of personal interest in Abraham Lincoln. Museum visitors wanting to continue learning about Lincoln are reflected in the record sales of history books in the museum's gift shop. Some books have sold faster than the publisher can reprint. Overall sales in the gift shop hit $1 million within three months of the museum's opening to the public.

Library collection

The Lincoln Presidential Library is a research library which houses books, papers and artifacts related to Lincoln's life and the American Civil War. In addition to the works associated with Lincoln and his era, the museum serves as a premier repository of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and other materials of historical interest pertaining to the history of the State of Illinois. While the library is open to the public, its rare collection is non-circulating.


Illinois Old Capitol Building
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is located in Springfield, Illinois in the historic downtown section, near many other Lincoln cultural sites. The presidential library opened on October 14, 2004, and the museum opened on April 19, 2005. Until 1970, Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. was designated as the "Lincoln Museum".

The buildings which now house the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum are in three separate structures. Each structure encompasses one city block.

Two of the buildings, the museum and the library, are separated by a street and connected above the street level by an enclosed walkway. The entrance of each building features a rotunda, reflective of the dome on the Old State Capitol State Historic Sitemarker in Springfield, where Lincoln served four terms as a legislator. Both structures were designed by the architectural firm HOK.

The third building, the former Springfield Union Station, has been adapted to serve as the museum's visitor center.


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Rick Beard, the museum's Executive Director. Richard Norton Smith served as the museum's Founding Executive Director. Dr. Thomas Schwartz served as the museum's Interim Executive Director when Smith departed in March 2006, and until Beard was appointed in October 2006.

See also


  1. Press Release (January 6, 2007). "Governor Blagojevich announces that Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum has welcomed its 1 millionth visitor: 1 millionth visitor reached in less than two years since opening, faster pace set by any Presidential.", Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
  2. Press Release (March 19, 2006). "Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Receives Prestigious Thea Award: Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the creation of compelling places and experiences.", Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
  3. Wetterich, Chris (August 25, 2005). "Attendance at Historic Sites Jumps 19%.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  4. Decker, John D. (December, 2005). "Exhibition Reviews: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.", Journal of American History.
  5. Landis, Tim, Morris, Natalie (July 21, 2005). "Tourism Booming: Museum Seems to be Boosting All Attractions.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Antonacci, Sarah (April 17, 2005). "First Impressions: Museum Visitors Virtually Unanimous: It's a Hit.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Clark, Jayne (April 15, 2005). Lincoln's Spirit Lives in New Museum: High Tech Mingles with U.S. History.", USA Today.
  • Engel, Janne (March 10, 2006). "History with Special Effects: Is it Museum or Haunted Mansion?", Los Angeles Times.
  • Ewers, Justine / LaGesse, David. (February 21, 2005). "The Real Lincoln - Special Report.", US News & World Report.
  • Andrew Ferguson. (July 4, 2007). " How To Design a Lincoln Museum",
  • Hold, Douglas (November 1, 1999). "Library to Unlock Lincoln Collections.", Chicago Tribune.
  • Landis, Tim (October 15, 2005). "Honest, Abe: Museum Gift Shop Sales Have Topped $2 Million mark.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Mannweiler, David (April 3, 2005). "Living in Lincoln's World: Museum's High-tech Displays Let Visitors Experience the Life of the 16th President.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Morris, Natalie. (June 15, 2005). "Museum is Jewel for Tourism.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Reardon, Patrick T. (April 12, 2005). "A New Focus on Lincoln's Story.", Chicago Tribune.
  • Reavy, Amanda (November 17, 2005). "U.S., World Honors for Presidential Museum: Scholarly, Entertainment Groups Give Recognition.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Reynolds, John (November 16, 2005). "Museum Sets One-Day Record: 3,825 People Visited the Site Friday.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Rothstein, Edward (April 19, 2005). "Museum Review: Strumming The Mystic Chords of Memory.", New York Times.
  • Sherman, Pete (October 24, 2005). "Museum's Success Above Expectations, Smith Says.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Sherman, Pete (April 20, 2005). "A Vision Realized: Dedication Gives Thousands a Day They'll Remember.", State Journal Register (Illinois).
  • Thompson, Bob (February 15, 2005). "Histronics and History.", Washington Post.
  • Thornburgh, Nathan (September 18, 2006). "History Goes Hollywood.", Time Magazine.
  • Willis, Christopher (April 17, 2005). "With Smoke and Cannons, Museum Brings Lincoln to Life.", Boston Globe.
  • Zoroya, Gregg (February 1, 2001). "Springfield Finally Getting Lincoln Library/Museum.", USA Today.

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