Exhibits at the Visitor Education Center

The Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center contains four self-guided, permanent exhibits: Wartime Washington, Lincoln the Commander-in-Chief, Lincoln Family at the Soldiers’ Home, and History of the Soldiers’ Home. Civil war prints and maps line the main corridor and interactive gallery in the Visitor Education Center, a sustainably renovated 1905 Beaux Arts style building that was awarded LEED Gold certification in 2009.

In addition, the Visitor Education Center contains a special exhibit gallery that supplements the permanent exhibits. To learn more about our current special exhibit “Can You Walk Away?” click here. To learn about past special exhibits, read the archived list below:

Seat of War: A Panoramic View of Civil War Washington through Historic Prints

December 7, 2011- January 15, 2012

The Civil War had arguably the greatest impact on Washington, DC of any single event in American history.  Almost overnight, the seat of our nation’s government was transformed from a sleepy, southern town to the hub of the northern war effort, and was often referred to as the Seat of War.  This exhibit illuminated President Lincoln’s Civil War Washington through historic prints from our collection. View press release here.

Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times

October 19, 2011- November 14, 2011

More books have been written about Lincoln than any other American, yet public knowledge about our most famous president is dominated by a series of iconic images: the son of an illiterate frontier farmer who taught himself to read; the savior of the Union; the Great Emancipator; the martyred leader.

On loan from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times invited visitors to look beyond the myth. Our goal was to encourage a deeper understanding of the life, accomplishments and legacy of the nation’s 16th president.

Being Lincoln

August 2010 – September 2011

lincoln yourself

Since his presidency, Lincoln has been resurrected on stage and the silver screen. Lincoln still appears on stage and screen, but today it’s more common to find Lincoln posing for photo opportunities at private parties, waving to crowds from a parade float, or speaking to students in the classroom. While Lincoln’s iconic image makes it easy enough to look like him, being like Lincoln means something else entirely.

Explore the difference between looking like Lincoln and really being like Lincoln. View press release here.

Lincoln Flag

April 11, 2011 – April 17, 2011

In remembrance of the 146th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Lincoln’s Cottage displayed one of five American flags that were hanging in Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination. The flag was displayed for one week only.

The flag was said to have been grabbed in haste from the bunting on the presidential box and used to cushion Lincoln’s head after he was shot. Thomas Gourlay, a part-time theater manager, kept the blood-stained flag that night, after Lincoln was moved to the Peterson House across the street from Ford’s Theatre. Jeannie Gourlay, actress in “Our American Cousin”, which was playing that night, and daughter of Thomas Gourlay, kept the flag in her possession until she died in 1924. It was donated to Pike County Historical Society by her son in 1954. The flag returned to it’s permanent display at Pike County Historical Society after the exhibit at the Cottage. View press release here.

My Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 2009 – December 31, 2009

As we celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth, millions across the country and throughout the world take Abraham Lincoln for their own. He ranks among the most popular and influential U.S. presidents. Everything, from his memorable speeches to his iconic top hat, captivates the public.

This exhibition presented compelling evidence from six private collections that 200 years after his birth, President Lincoln continues to influence our lives and inspire us to be part of the Lincoln story. View press release here.

Deep and Subtle Expression: Lincoln In Sculpture

July 4, 2008 – December 19, 2008

This exhibit displayed works from National Trust collections from Chesterwood Estate and Museum, President Lincoln’s Cottage, Woodrow Wilson House, and Villa Finale.

From Lincoln’s day to ours, sculptors have attempted to capture the “something else” that the poet Walt Whitman noted as he saw Abraham Lincoln commuting from the Soldiers’ Home to the White House. Each work in the four National Trust Collections that were exhibited – whether a detailed study of his hand for a colossal public memorial, or a small, mass-produced bust of Lincoln – seeks to engage and inspire viewers by conveying the soul of a great leader.

In Pursuit of Emancipation: Documenting Lincoln’s Decision to Proclaim Freedom

February 18, 2008 – April 30, 2008

This inaugural special exhibit was featured in pre-opening events and was opened to the public as part of the Grand Opening Ceremony on February 18th. It featured over a dozen manuscripts and artifacts on loan from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Massachusetts Historical Society, and The National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution.  Highlights included the pen Lincoln used to sign the Proclamation, a rare autographed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, and one of 13 souvenir copies of the 13th Amendment, signed by Lincoln.

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