Rubbing Abe’s Nose
ON THE SECOND DAY OF OUR 2010 SUMMER VACATION we visited Springfield, Illinois. My intention had originally been to show my kids Lincoln’s Homeplace, but when my friend Shannon suggested that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was an incredible experience her kids enjoyed we shifted plans and spent more time there. I’m so thrilled that we did!
The Lincoln Presidential Museum is a relatively new addition to the Land of Lincoln offerings. There was a perfect mix of interactive elements, multimedia, and highlighted elements to create a sense of history that our whole family enjoyed. When you purchase your tickets in the front lobby you are asked if you would like to participate in the History Detective fun. We took three of the clipboards and then the fun began. First there was the search for the Lincoln Penny used in the floor design of the entry area. Grace and William got busy right away checking that out:
Mike Anderson, also known as The Dulcimer Guy, demonstrated several 19th Century Musical instruments to the kids. He was extremely adept at answering the thousands of questions they threw at him and he enjoyed sharing his love of music from that time period.
Period toys and dress-up clothing could be found in Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic. I loved the hands-on, please touch attitude in that area. Grace wanted to wear the pioneer bonnet I bought for her in St. Louis and she then found an outfit to match.
They tolerated being in a photo together here…I think the older two are royally annoyed at me for documenting the fact they were having fun.
There are two incredible multimedia presentations in the museum. Both are worth your time. One is called “Lincoln’s Eyes,” and the other one “Ghosts of the LIbrary”. Both employ technology in such an appropriate way. The Ghosts of the Library presentation includes a live actor who eventually disappears before your eyes after recalling all sorts of historical thought held in the library. The kids sat entranced through the whole presentation and then hung around to talk to the Technical person who was running the show. He was kind enough to engage in a detailed conversation with all three of them and share the fact that some of the mysterious effects in the act were actually an old film illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost”. The kids were wide-eyed and couldn’t wait to begin looking up the definition of that effect. Then they began sharing their favorite video ideas with the Technician and the conversation became even more fun. They told him about Mystery Guitarman and Rhett and Link and their creativity. They talked about stop motion ideas with him. The museum employee could not have been more generous with his time and information and seemed genuinely to enjoy sharing ideas with my kids. It was a true give and take. You can’t ask for more of a learning experience than that! All three of my kids were buzzing with ideas as we walked away to the next part of the museum.
And then after the museum we took the kids for a healthy lunch of ice cream and caramel corn. (Don’t worry, we fed them real food later. I promise!) Del’s Popcorn Shop was a short walk from the museum and is apparently famous around Springfield for their variety of treats. Popcorn is their speciality and we walked out of there with a load of bags to share and enjoy. As you walk down 6th street you can enjoy some of the landmark buildings like the Courthouse where Lincoln tried his cases and Lincoln’s Law Office.
The kids enjoyed watching Shellie Jacobs make up the fresh batch. The caramel smelled so good at this point!
And then saw how she separated each little piece on the marble counter top. Their mouths were wide open in awe.
Finally, we headed over to Lincoln’s Tomb in the Oak Ridge Cemetery. It was a beautiful setting in an old cemetery with old caretakers homes around the monument and trees hanging low along the path. The walk up to it because a bit somber as the kids realized the meaning of the tomb. The tomb marks the final resting place of Abraham, Mary Todd, Tad, Eddie and Willie Lincoln. (Oldest son, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.) Abraham Lincoln was buried in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery at the request of Mrs. Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. The monument was designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, completed in 1874, and paid for with public donations. The original receiving vault in which Abraham Lincoln was buried can be seen on a tour of the cemetery.
One of my children’s favorite memories about the tomb — an apparently a tradition which is said to bring luck to many others — is to rub Abraham Lincoln’s nose on the bronze head cast outside of the tomb. If you look, you can see where the rest of the bronze has oxidized, but the nose has not. That is due to all the oils from visitor’s hands.
Will and Grace needed a little boost up to do it. They argued about it for a moment.
Then Jordan reached up smugly and proved that she is the “oldest”…and for the moment…the tallest. As we headed up the road towards Chicago that night I got the distinct impression that Day 2 of the vacation was a rousing success.
Days like these make vacationing with your kids worthwhile.
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