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Lincoln Museum worth the wait

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By The Staff

“The luck of the third adventure is proverbial,” writes Elizabeth Barrett Browning. When translated, that means, "Third time’s a charm."

Well, third time was a charm for me, recently, because along with my husband and son, I finally made it to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield.

What an experience!

The parking garage across the street makes access to the museum easy, and from the moment we entered the "gateway" or portal, we were greeted with smiles and knowledgeable volunteers and staff.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with Phil Funkenbusch of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in putting on the cemetery walk at the Old State Burial Ground in Vandalia. Phil now works at the Lincoln museum, and happened to be in the day we visited.

Phil took us in hand for the grand tour, and directed us to the "Ghosts of the Library," theater where I started out with goosebumps and ended up in tears. A very moving performance, as our host answered the question, “Why does history matter?”

Whether you want to be or not, you are plunged into the Civil War.

After the presentation, Phil took us backstage to meet some of the actors and support staff who work under him. He also took us onto the "Ghosts" stage set where we met the actor who had given us such a thrill, and saw the cameras that made it all possible.

Phil had a meeting to attend, so with promises to catch up with each other later, we next ventured toward the log cabin nestled beneath tall trees. Entering the door of the cabin begins you on Journey 1 – The Pre-Presidential Years.

Visitors at the museum are left on their own to take however much time they wish to view the exhibits. It was during this time of Lincoln’s life that I paused, because the museum display jumped from New Salem to the debate at Knox College. It seemed a little abrupt to me. “Where is Vandalia?” I asked the nearest guide.

I was directed to a map of places Lincoln had traveled during his years in Illinois. And, sure enough, there was Vandaliaeea "dot" in history. It shouldn’t be!

On March 1, 1837, Abraham Lincoln’s name was added to the roll of attorneys in the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court in Vandalia. Visitors to the old state capitol can stand before the same riser today and imagine the scene.

Two days later, Lincoln, incensed by the legislators endorsing a resolution publicly disapproving the formation of anti-slavery societies, joined with Dan Stone and registered a protest.

This protest said, in part, “Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of same. They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policyee”

Lincoln’s first public protest against the injustice of slaveryeewas made in Vandalia. In 1860, he referred to this protest, saying it still manifested his stand on the slavery issue. This first public protest was important to Abraham Lincoln. It is important to America’s history.

Entering the portico of the White House takes you through Lincoln’s White House years. Replicas of dresses worn by Mary Lincoln, along with several other important ladies of the time, are on display.

A helpful guide told us that the material for one of the hand-made dresses had to be created because it no longer existed. Personal affects of the Lincoln family, the children’s toys, a picture of the family dog, helped set the tone of informality and provide a glimpse into their lives.

The movie, the "Civil War in Four Minutes" stopped me cold. In the first two weeks of the war, there were no casualties on either side. Then, as the names of the various battles were flashed up on the map of the Eastern United States, the casualty numbers mounted steadily – so fast your eye could not keep up with the count.

The touch screen wall of Civil War era photographs was captivating, and I could have stayed there for hours.

I read that it is wise to allow at good two hours for your visit to the Museum. We were there more than three hours and hardly noticed it. After taking a break at the coffee shop, we then strolled through Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, a play area for children, and visited the museum store, where anything Lincoln was offered for sale.

Hours and ticket prices are available on the museum Web site www.alplm.org. Two places, the plaza, where I took my picture, and the play area, Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, allow photography or videotaping.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, a sentiment echoed by my family. Like they say, "Third time’s a charm."