I was fortunate to serve as a Trustee of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency from 1985 to 1991. During that time, the state opened the Cahokia Mounds Museum, acquired the Dana Thomas House, and acquired the Pullman Car Works and Florence Hotel. One of the great dreams of Julie Cellini, the Chair of our Board, Susan Mogerman, the Director, Seanator Durbin and the Illinois Congressional Delegation was the creation of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.

It is great to see the opening become a reality this coming week creating what what will be one of the State’s top attractions. The following column by Mark Brown in the Sun Times shows the promise of this new Illinois gem

A special thanks is due to Steve Neal, author, historian and Sun Times Columnist, now memorialized by the Steve Neal Reading Room, which honors his crusade to see the Museum remain independent. Steve was a great friend of my dad’s and was one of the speakers at our ceremony to announce the creation of the Eli M. Schulman Playground in October of 1988.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Saturday,
April 16

  • Looking for Lincoln Block Party (10 a.m. – 9
    p.m., downtown Springfield from the Old State Capitol to Lincoln’s family home
    neighborhood to the Museum) – A two-day celebration featuring living history,
    music, theater troupes, choirs, folk dancers and artists from across the
    country.

  • Culinary Court (10 a.m. – 9 p.m., along
    Washington Street, north of the Old State Capitol) – A food festival featuring
    cuisine from Springfield area restaurants.

  • Museum Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (with paid
    admission)

  • Arts Council Kids Area 11 a.m. ‚ 3 p.m. Lincoln
    Home Neighborhood

  • Military Band Concert Air National Guard of the
    Midwest
    5:30 p.m. ‚ 7:30 p.m.
    In front of Lincoln’s Home
    Bring lawn
    chair

  • Period Music Program 97th Regimental String
    Band
    7:30 p.m.
    New Salem State Park
    Reservations required as limited
    seating
    (217) 632-4000

  • Children’s Art Exhibit (All day) Old State
    Capitol

  • 2005 Presidential Race Click here to download form to enter race.

Sunday, April 17

  • Day two of Looking for Lincoln Block Party (10
    a.m. – 9 p.m.)

  • Arts Council Kids Area (11 a.m. ‚ 3 p.m.) Lincoln
    Home Neighborhood

  • Children’s Art Exhibit (All day) Old State
    Capitol

  • Taylorville Folk Art Lincoln Exhibit
    9 a.m. ‚
    5 p.m.
    210 South Sixth Street

  • Day two of Culinary Court (10 a.m. – 9 p.m.)

  • Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Abraham
    Lincoln

    Location: Union Square Park / Presidential Museum Time: 2
    p.m. Rain Out: Convention Center

  • Scholarly Conference “Lincoln in the Twenty-First
    Century”
    (all day, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library) – A two-day
    conference will examine everything from Lincoln’s attitude toward race and his
    domestic life, to his wartime leadership and assassination. The conference will
    conclude at 3:30 p.m. on the 18th with a panel hosted by C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb and
    featuring three generations of the world’s foremost Lincoln scholars -David
    Herbert Donald, Harold Holzer, Matthew Pinsker and David Gergen. This conference is sold out.

  • Recreation of Lincoln’s Farewell Address followed by a
    Torchlight Parade
    (6:30 p.m., Old Train Depot to Union Square
    Park/Presidential Museum)

  • Outdoor Concert, Fireworks and Laser Spectacular
    (8 p.m., Union Square Park) – With musical accompaniment by the 312th Army
    Band.

  • Museum Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (with paid
    admission)

Monday, April 18

  • Breakfast sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln
    Association
    (7:30 a.m., Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). This
    breakfast will feature an outlook to the year 2009 and progress reports from the
    Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. This event
    is sold out.

  • Day two of Scholarly Conference “Lincoln in the
    Twenty-First Century”
    (all day, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library)
    This conference is sold out.

  • Recreated Lincoln White House State Dinner There
    is an extremely limited number of seats still available at $500 per person,
    available by calling Amy Jackson at 217-558-8906. Note: This dinner
    has been moved to the Prairie Capitol Convention
    Center.

    This fundraiser for the Abraham Lincoln
    Presidential Library Foundation will feature a Lincoln-era menu and 19th-century
    music courtesy of the 312th Army Band. The first David Herbert Donald Prize for
    excellence in Lincoln studies will be presented to its namesake, the Pulitzer
    Prize-winning author of the definitive one-volume Lincoln biography. Click here for registration information

  • Springfield Choral Society Concert – 7 p.m.
    Central Baptist Church

  • Taylorville Folk Art Lincoln Exhibit (9 a.m. ‚ 5
    p.m.) 210 South Sixth Street

Tuesday, April 19

  • Taylorville Folk Art Lincoln Exhibit (9 a.m. ‚ 5
    p.m.) 210 South Sixth Street

  • Public Dedication: (10 a.m., Union Square Park) -
    Join Gov. Blagojevich and other prominent figures at this memorable program
    signaling the official opening of the presidential museum. The eleven o’clock
    ceremony will be preceded by a special one-hour concert featuring music by the
    312 Army Band.

    Additionally, the winner of a student essay contest
    sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and C-SPAN will
    read his or her modern-day version of the Gettysburg address to the
    crowd.

Steve Neal Reading Room
The Library’s General Reading Room has been named in honor of the
late Steve Neal, the Chicago Sun-Times writer whose frequent columns about the
Library kept the project in the public’s eye. Neal authored ten books on U.S.
history, including the recently published, “Happy Days Are Here Again”, about
the 1932 Democratic Convention.

The published collection of materials
owned by Steve Neal and donated to the ALPL consists of 1,950 books which will
be housed on the first four ranges of shelving in the Main Reading
Room.

The books cover a broad time period, including a book on the Roman
Empire (1152 B.C.), to the present. Subjects include: Abraham Lincoln; United
States presidents, politicians and historical figures; the history of Illinois
and Chicago; U.S. Constitutional history; the Civil War, world wars, Vietnam,
foreign affairs and military history; European history; African Americans; Irish
literature/anthologies, Shakespeare and poetry; sports; the ocean; cultural
histories; and biographies of persons such as Stalin and Queen Elizabeth. A
number of books are autographed by persons of prominence and are also
presentation copies to Steve Neal. These books will all be cataloged on the
Library’s online card catalog, Dynix, and on OCLC, an international
bibliographical database.

 

Illinois’ proud new motto: Land of Lincoln
Museum

April 12, 2005

BY MARK BROWN

SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

SPRINGFIELD — Start making your plans. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Museum opens to the public this weekend, and this is something you’re going to
want to see for yourself, even if you haven’t been to the state capital since
your grade school field trip — maybe especially if you haven’t been here since
your school field trip. I took a tour of the museum Monday, and I think it’s
going to be big. Huge even.

The Lincoln Presidential Museum will immediately become Downstate’s most
popular man-made tourist attraction. Chicago’s museums will need to take note.
The Smithsonian might take a few pointers.

What’s the big deal?

Well, they managed to make it interesting. And fun. And educational. And
moving.And first-rate.That’s right. The government of the State of Illinois was
involved in doing something first-rate. I can hardly believe it myself.From the
holographic special effects used in an exhibit called “Ghosts of the Library,”
the quality of which compares favorably with Disney, to the piano solo of
“Johnny Comes Marching Home” that punctuates a brilliantly simple presentation
on the Civil War’s death toll, this is a museum that dares to get your
attention.

Will be prototype

The museum joins the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, which opened last
fall, in a sprawling $150 million taxpayer-funded complex that should suit the
needs of serious Lincoln scholars while supplying plenty of the
bells-and-whistles that today’s kids prefer.

Organizers say there’s never been a presidential library and museum like it,
which I’m in no position to either confirm or deny, but I can promise you there
will be others like it in the future. This will be the prototype.

In the Land of Lincoln, it’s amazing sometimes how much we take the 16th
president of the United States for granted and how little most of us know about
him, as I was reminded on a family vacation last year to Washington, D.C., and
Gettysburg. This should help change that.

One of the strengths of the new museum is that there isn’t the same
sugar-coating we usually get with the mythical Lincoln.

“He became a legend, and we haven’t seen him clearly since,” says the
narrator of another special-effects filled theater presentation that sharpens
our focus.

Richard Norton Smith, the museum’s executive director who gave me the tour,
said many of those who have visited it so far have commented on how they hadn’t
realized how unpopular Lincoln was during his presidency, or how he was vilified
in the press.

The museum doesn’t flinch from race. In a room depicting Lincoln with his
Cabinet members debating whether to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, there’s
a written synopsis of where each of the men stood.

‘Spoiled their children rotten’

For Attorney General Edward Bates, it says: “Although against black equality,
Bates gave his unreserved support to the Proclamation. He hoped and assumed that
once free, all Negroes would leave the United States to colonize Central
America.”

Does the museum have shortcomings? Certainly.

As it stands now, there’s no way for everybody to get as good a tour as I
received from Smith, who wove together the various exhibits with some of the
rich details and anecdotes that bring history alive.

For instance, while viewing a scene depicting two of Lincoln’s boys
misbehaving in his law office while he tries to work, Smith observed: “The
Lincolns were very indulgent parents. The consensus in Springfield was they
spoiled their children rotten.”

The exhibit itself isn’t as frank.

I suggest the museum immediately develop one of those tape-recorded
audiophone tours using Smith’s narration. I’m also a little concerned about
traffic flow, or how well the museum will handle big crowds.For that reason, I’d
recommend waiting a few months to visit while they work out the bugs. That
should give Smith enough time to tape his narrated tour.

Building is no beauty

I suppose you could sniff about the architecture, if that were your only
point of reference. The building is no beauty, but it doesn’t detract from the
experience.Smith’s hope is the museum will serve as a catalyst to draw visitors
to other Lincoln historical sites, especially those in Illinois.

My suggestion would be to combine the new presidential museum with some
combination of Lincoln’s home, the Old State Capitol, Lincoln’s Tomb or New
Salem.You want the kids to appreciate real historical settings, too. The Ford’s
Theater portion of the museum is decent, but it doesn’t compare with seeing the
real thing.

Springfield field trips will never be the same.