Monday, August 20, 2007

Springfield

Yesterday I drove to Springfield so I could visit the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. The drive down 55 was simple enough, if you like cornfields -- 'cause that's all you're gonna look at for the 3-hour drive.

But I digress.

I checked into my hotel and then made a bee-line for the museum, which, fortunately enough, was just two blocks away. Suffice is to say, after I arrived at the museum, they needed to mop up behind me. The place is incredible. I am a little bit of a Lincoln Assassination buff (ok, maybe a tad more than a bit), so by proxy I've come to read quite a bit about Lincoln (although I've read even more about John Wilkes Booth). So I had a great understanding of the man and his life. And while walking through the exhibits (which I photographed without knowing that's against the law), I got the same feelings I used to get when reading about an ancestor I had uncovered. A vague sense of familiarity swept over me.

The Library is at least 50% larger than any other presidential library in existence (at least this is what the brochures tell me). The Museum is very interactive, with life-size, lifelike statues of Lincoln, his wife and sons, and other men and women of the time. And yes, even Booth is present (eerily enough, you can see him in the picture at left, just over the shoulder of Tad, the youngest son, as if he's watching and spying on Lincoln still).
Sometimes when I go through a museum, I am happy to go it alone - going at my own pace, seeing the things that interest me most. But here, I had wished someone was with me. For one reason, I would have loved to have my picture taken with the Booth figure but felt too uncomfortable to ask a stranger. But mostly, I wanted to share something that interests me so much with someone who means something to me.
A quick glance at my watch showed me that I still had 55 minutes to walk to the Lincoln home and get in the last tour if possible. A brisk walk several blocks south and I was in the next group heading inside the only home Lincoln ever owned. With the exception that the fence is not painted white, the house is an exact replica of itself from 1860. Even though it was interesting to walk through the house, I didn't feel a connection to it like I did when I visited Mt. Vernon. When visiting there, you get a feeling of the presence of George Washington. Perhaps it's because Lincoln's house is almost void of anything really personal. It's just furniture in rooms. It was worth the tour, but not worth a trip on its own. At least not for me.

Tomorrow, I plan on visiting Oak Ridge Cemetery, where Lincoln is buried (after I actually do some work, that is). It's so fascinating to me to trace this man's steps. Although my interest lay more with the assassination than any other part of Lincoln's life, it's still interesting to learn more about who this man was. Now if I could just find a tour like this that centered around Booth, I'd be ecstatic.

But then - come on - isn't this picture just a lit-tle creepy?