Lincoln’s legacy explored in exhibit on campus this spring


Submitted Photo/ALA Public Programs Office

The travelling Lincoln exhibit, sponsored by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association, will call IVCC its home from March 24 to May 1. To the left is just one of many colorful displays depicting the president’s life story and accomplishments. The interactive exhibit is organized into six areas, highlighting his career, the Civil War, and the Gettysburg Address.

In a spring that commemorates the 150th anniversary of his greatest victory – the end of the Civil War — and the assassination that ended his life, Abraham Lincoln returns to the Illinois Valley.

During his lifetime, he was no stranger to the area. Here he enlisted to fight in the Blackhawk War. As a legislator, he was instrumental in developing the Illinois & Michigan Canal. As a senate-hopeful, he debated incumbent Stephen Douglas in Ottawa. He stayed often with friends and he argued court cases here.

Now he’s the subject of a traveling exhibit, “Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War,” that explores how his leadership and vision steered the nation through a turbulent civil war. The exhibition is sponsored by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association and runs from March 24 to May 1 outside the Cultural Center.

The interactive exhibit is organized into six main exhibit areas: “Secession Winter,” “Oath of Office,” “Crisis of Secession,” “Crisis of Slavery,” “Crisis of Civil Liberties,” and “Lincoln’s Legacy: The Gettysburg Address in His Time and Ours.”
Lincoln’s own view of the war is summed up in those 272 words of the Gettysburg Address.

The exhibit kicks off March 24 at 6:30 with Max and Donna Daniels appearing as Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. At 7 p.m., IVCC President Jerry Corcoran cuts the ribbon opening the exhibit to the public, and at 7:15, singer/songwriter Chris Vallillo performs his original album “Abraham Lincoln in Song.”

Frances Whaley, who heads IVCC’s Jacobs Library, says she’s excited to get the exhibit because the Illinois Valley has such strong ties to Lincoln. “Because we’re from Illinois, we often get inundated about Lincoln information and think we know all there is to know. I hope the exhibit gives a fresh look at how marvelous his accomplishments were.”

Other events and presentations have been or will be scheduled. Among them will be a concert performance by the IVCC Choir at 7:30 p.m. April 27 that features the Gettysburg Address set to music. Other music from the period, including marching songs from both North and South and spirituals will be performed.

One thing director Norm Engstrom noticed in putting together the playlist is that the war songs were more patriotic than anti-war. “The audience will get a new look at 150-year-old music,” he says.

“Our goal is to have a program a week in addition to tours,” says history instructor Amanda Cook-Fesperman, who’s coordinating the tours and presentations. “There’s an opportunity to learn all kinds of other facets of the Civil War!”

Scheduled presentations about Mary Todd Lincoln and female Confederate spies will fit both Women’s History Month and the Lincoln Exhibit. Continuing Education students will tour the exhibit before heading to Springfield to tour more Lincoln sites.
Nearly 1,000 elementary and high school students are expected to receive guided tours through the exhibit every Friday except for Good Friday. On Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30, tours led by Cook-Fesperman and a student, Matthew Phillips, will be available to individual students and college classes who request them in advance.

Funding for the kickoff ceremony was made possible by the Illinois Arts Council and the IVCC Foundation. The Lincoln exhibit debuted at the Constitution Center in 2005.