Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Definitive Lincoln show stops in Atlanta

One hundred and forty-five years after his death, Abraham Lincoln still speaks to us.

-- His grammar book recites the determination of a young farm boy struggling to master English.
-- A gold Tiffany necklace and bracelets whispers of his affection for his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who gave the president three sons, one of whom died during the Civil War.
-- A Bible (photo below), used by Lincoln at his 1861 first inauguration and again by President Barack Obama at his 2009 inauguration, is a sermon on faith in America.
-- Two pair of spectacles, a pocketknife, newspaper clippings and other items in Lincoln’s coat on the night of his April 1865 assassination tell of his humanity (photo below).

The items are from the Library of Congress’ traveling blockbuster Lincoln exhibit, which comes Sept. 4 (Saturday) to the Atlanta History Center and runs through Nov. 7

“There are really big ticket artifacts,” says Gordon L. Jones, senior curator of the history center, which is hosting the only Southern stop of “With Malice Toward None.”

There are far too many national treasures to describe here, but among the most prominent are life masks, drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s handwritten farewell address when he left Springfield, Ill., to assume the presidency in 1861.

The bicentennial traveling exhibit opened in 2009.

“With Malice Toward None” opens with a multimedia presentation that explores the myth and realities of Lincoln. Video commentaries reveal personal connections to the documents the 16th president wrote.

The Atlanta History Center hopes to get a membership boost and a spillover effect from “Malice.”

The AHC’s “War in Our Backyards” exhibit, which lasts through September, gives visitors a glimpse of wartime Atlanta and what remains. The permanent “Turning Point: The American Civil War,” has hundreds of military artifacts collected by the DuBose family.

“You get a very broad view and a local view,” says Hillary Hardwick, vice president of marketing.

There are actually two Bibles in the exhibit. One is the Lincoln family Bible and the other is the one Lincoln and Obama used at their inaugurations (that is the one pictured in this blog).

The "Lincoln/Obama" Bible appeals to younger and diverse patrons.

“For them, that connection makes sense,” said Jones.

Civil War aficionados will find plenty to peruse, including the famous Antietam “Lost Orders” by Gen. Robert E. Lee. A Union soldier found them wrapped around cigars, but Gen. George B. McClellan was unable to exploit the discovery.

Another letter speaks to Lincoln’s amazing discernment and judgment.

After the Union’s victory Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln wrote a letter to Gen. George Meade (below), showing his frustration with the latter’s failure to pin down Lee’s retreating Confederates.

“Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.”

Lincoln put the letter aside. He never sent it to Meade, who may well have resigned.

“He would write stuff down to get it out of his system,” said Jones.

The AHC , in conjunction with the exhibit, is planning an opening day celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and later events for teachers and families.

“When you know the story ... it starts to tickle the emotions,” said Jones.

The Lincoln exhibit will run through Nov. 7. Information: 404-814-4000,

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