In our 2021 Annual Report, out now, Director Michael Atwood Mason writes, “The stories we tell here inspire, guided as they are by the empathy, relentless dedication to self-improvement, and intellectual depth of Abraham Lincoln (and the brilliance and resilience of Mary). President Lincoln is a rare point of agreement in a still-divided country. He has come to represent our deepest ideals. The Cottage, with its dedication to education, preservation of place and social justice, strives to live up to these ideals and share them with future generations.”
This past month our exhibit Reflections on Grief and Child Loss was selected as the recipient of two Leadership in History Awards from the American Association for State and Local History: the Award of Excellence and a History in Progress Award.
If you have not had a chance to experience this award-winning exhibit, we invite you to visit.
Rebecca Kilborne: Welcome Hannah! We are so Happy you are here. What drew you to President Lincoln’s Cottage?
Hannah Urrey: Hi Rebecca, it is great to be here! I was initially drawn to the Cottage because of its historical significance, however, as I learned more, I appreciated the ways in which we tell the story of Lincoln in a nuanced way and in a way that inspires reflection and action in the modern world. There is an appreciation of history while also helping us learn and grow today. The ability to work in such a lovely setting, on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home doesn’t hurt either!
RK: In what ways would you like to see the Cottage advance?
HU: I would love to see the Cottage move from being a “hidden gem” to being a must-see here in DC. We aren’t on the Mall, but the importance of the site and the excellent interpretation and storytelling make the Cottage an extremely rich experience for history buffs and justice seekers alike.
RK: You studied theater as an undergrad. You share that love with Lincoln. What is your favorite piece of theater? (You can’t say Macbeth, because Lincoln already called that).
HU: Ha! Yes, I did. I studied theatre with a focus on stage management. One of my favorite pieces of theatre that I’ve experienced as an audience member was one that took place in a historic house museum in New Orleans. Set in 1870s New Orleans, the action of the play took place in multiple spaces in the house simultaneously, with actors and the audience moving freely through the house and exterior courtyard. To allow the audience to experience the full story, the play was performed twice. That way, you could follow one character in the first round and a different one in the second. It utilized the historic setting in a unique way, and the content of the show grappled with issues of race, class, and science in important and thought-provoking ways.
RK: What do you like to do when you are not advancing non-profits?
HU: Outside of work, I like to bake and garden, and travel when circumstances allow. I also spend a good bit of time fixing up my own historic home, built in 1927, which I share with my spouse and two delightful cats.
RK: As it is that time of year, what is your favorite July 4th memory over the years?
There’s nothing like July 4th fireworks here in DC, but some of my favorite memories are from my childhood, when my siblings and parents and I would load up in the car to go watch fireworks in my hometown. We would always stop to buy candy on the way and each of us were allowed to buy any candy we wanted – just for us, no sharing required! It was a real treat as a kid. I usually chose Junior Mints.
RK: And since we are on the topic, what do you think being a patriot means today?
I feel very strongly about our responsibilities to one another. Living in community with others requires us to care for both ourselves and those around us. With that frame, being patriotic means wanting our country to be the very best it can be and using the tools and resources we have to move us towards a more just, equitable, and abundant future. It means being proud and striving to be better.
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