By Erin Carlson Mast
We’ve recently completed our “summative evaluations” of President Lincoln’s Cottage tour after completion and are reviewing the analysis. We also continue to conduct our regular online surveys to gather visitor feedback, necessary to help us review and enhance the visitor experience just 9 months after opening to the public for the first time.
Occasionally we get feedback outside of our regular and special surveys, and sometimes this feedback is the most personal and the most understanding of our mission at the Cottage. Here is a recent note we received via email from Mr. Vosler of Ohio, who agreed to let us post his comments.
I had the occasion to tour the Lincoln Cottage 2 days ago, and have continued to regale family and friends with how special the visit was. With what turned out to be a personal tour by guide Allison — I was thoroughly engaged, not only by both the factual and anecdotal knowledge, but her personal passion for the subject as well. Combined with the sheer quality and originality of the restoration attained, it all made for one of the best hours I’ve recently spent. As an avid history buff who has visited most every Lincoln site and many other presidential sites as well, I consider the Lincoln Cottage one of the penultimate examples of fine restoration. A historically accurate surround/view (ability to see as Abe saw) is enhanced by the minimalist interior and well-timed interactive media to make for one of the richest and most personal brushes with the life of A. Lincoln. Job well done on all fronts — I will tell all of the must see! Thank you.
S. Vosler, Dublin, OH
Of course, not all of our visitor feedback is glowing, but what is striking about much of the positive feedback, such as Mr. Vosler’s, is that the comments reveal that the visitor both had an enjoyable and educational experience–our main goal–and understands the strengths of the site and what we’re trying to accomplish in the first place.
While there are some fully furnished rooms on the tour, President Lincoln’s Cottage was not designed to be the typical fully furnished historic house museum–so anyone coming with the hopes of seeing, for example, Mary’s dresses may leave a bit disappointed, as will the person who wants a purely architectural tour and does not care much for Lincoln (and these are not made up examples). The architecture and Mary Lincoln story were not the impetus for the Cottage being declared part of a National Historic Landmark in 1973 or a National Monument in 2000. Though Mary and the architecture are part of the story, the focus is Lincoln’s leadership and private life in this place.
Feedback is important as we continually evaluate and adjust the experience at President Lincoln’s Cottage. The goal is that even visitors coming with misplaced expectations are satisfied with their visit and walk away having learned something new. By and large we have been successful in that goal, but we can and will always strive to do more.