This month we celebrate the country’s top leadership job and the 44 men who have held that position. Several presidents have ties to the Midwest and for those who are eager to learn more, there are exhibits that outline their lives and careers.
Lincoln fans will enjoy a trip to the Chicago History Museum where costumed re-enactors of Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln visit on Presidents Day and are available for photos with families. “This year the program is focusing on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Nicholas Glenn, Communications Coordinator. “There will be crafts, actors re-enacting speeches and family friendly activities.”
Glenn also noted that the Chicago Historical Society once had a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation handwritten by Lincoln that was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. The activities take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on February 18.
Two exhibits, Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln’s Chicago cover his political career and part in abolishing slavery. “Lincoln’s Chicago gives a picture of Chicago in the time of Lincoln,” said Glenn. “The way we take that picture is with artifacts, portrait of important Chicagoans and a digital display where people can use digital lithographic images to explore downtown Chicago using a touch screen.”
Also on display is Lincoln’s death bed, an axe (because it was a symbol used in his campaign) and a pocket watch given to him on his way to Washington after winning the presidency. “The watch is displayed next to slave shackles. He was sent to the high office and this makes it present that slavery is a big thing he had to deal with. The juxtaposition of the two next to each other is quite powerful.”
In Illinois’ capital of Springfield, where Lincoln lived for several years are several sites related to Lincoln, including the only home he ever owned, which is part of the National Parks Service and can be toured for free with a limited number of tickets available daily.
With the recent inaugural activities, the dress worn by the First Lady Michelle Obama was much anticipated and scrutinized as it has also been in the past. At the Lansing (IL) Historical Society, a free exhibit of first lady dolls shows replicas of the dresses each first lady wore for their husband’s inauguration. The museum is located in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library.
The closest presidential museum to Northwest Indiana is the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan where you can explore the life and times of our nation’s 38th president. He is also buried on the museum grounds.
For a sidebar:
Presidential Road Trips
A little beyond the region are some attractions and extensive exhibits related to some of our past presidents. Plan a visit on your next road trip:
Gerald Ford Museum, 303 Pearl St NW Grand Rapids, MI,
(616) 254-0400, www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/museum/aboutmus.asp
Lincoln Home, 426 S 7th St Springfield, IL,
(217) 492-4150, www.nps.gov/liho
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 212 N 6th St Springfield, IL
(217) 558-8934, www.alplm.org
Lincoln’s Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, 1500 Monument Ave Springfield, IL
(217) 782-2717, http://www.illinoishistory.gov/hs/lincoln_tomb.htm
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, 816 S Hennepin Ave Dixon, IL
(815) 288-5176, www.reaganhome.org
Lincoln’s Boyhood Home National Historic Site, Lincoln City, IN, www.nps.gov/libo
Benjamin Harrison Home, 1230 N Delaware St Indianapolis, IN
(317) 631-1888, www.presidentbenjaminharrison.org