Just this month we unveiled a totally redesigned room in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center. The new community space offers visitors a chance to relax in a vibrant new setting. Read on for an interview with Callie Hawkins, Director of Programming, who spearheaded the redesigned space.
What was the inspiration for redesigning the room? When thinking about redesigning the space, we wanted to better reflect the needs of our community by providing a space that served all their needs. In addition to the residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, and the thousands of visitors we get each year, the AFRH campus has grown with the addition of Creative Minds International Public Charter School and we now have hundreds of teachers, students, faculty and parents who pass through these gates each day. We wanted a space that was functional for all of them, though they may use it in different ways.
What’s new in the space? We have definitely upped our technology and coffee games. We traded in an old school projector for a 84” 4G highly dynamic monitor, and our standard Keurig for a new Nespresso super deluxe machine. And if you’re a visual person, the rolls of butcher paper provide space to jot down ideas, pose questions, and even just doodle.
What kind of vibe would you say you are going for in the new room? Since the space is going to serve different audiences, we wanted it to be vibrant and reflect the ideas that Lincoln thought through while he lived here and the ideas that continue to be developed by our visitors every day.
How do you hope visitors to President Lincoln’s Cottage use the room? I hope visitors will find this a comfortable and reflective space — one that provides a quiet spot for charging your phone, writing on the butcher paper, or sipping some coffee while reading a book from our museum store. And, I hope our neighbors will think of this as a place to gather on a rainy day when they need to get out, but don’t want to venture out of the neighborhood.
There are several quotes from Lincoln on the walls. How did you end up choosing these ones specifically? Lincoln isn’t known for his brevity (except maybe the Gettysburg Address!) so it was quite a challenge to find some that could stand alone and that weren’t super long. It was also important to us that the quotes be inspiring to modern audiences who understand that much of the work Lincoln was dedicated to while living here is unfinished.
How does the room fit with the Cottage’s other programs, its mission/vision etc…? To me this room reflects the bold, vibrant programming that occurs year-round at President Lincoln’s Cottage. The Cottage isn’t a static place where people only learn about a person or event in the past — it’s a place where new ideas are generated every day. Through this space, and some new programming we are planning, we hope to give visitors even more options for nurturing their ideas and promoting dialogue on difficult topics.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping during the project? We appreciate of all those who gave to the Giving Tuesday campaign that funded the technological upgrades in the room, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Trust for Historic Preservation, who also supported the project.