Largest Lincoln Exhibit Ever Opens In California

Kevin Trotman, Flickr

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library just debuted a new exhibit on the most famous Republican. A. Lincoln: From Railsplitter to Rushmore opened Saturday and will run through September 31. With 250 items culled from major collectors, it’s the largest assemblage of the Lincoln family’s personal effects ever displayed.

But other museums have examples of this exhibit’s highlights, such as his stovepipe hats, Lincoln-signed 13th Amendments and his gold pocket watches. There are plenty of blood-stained fabrics from the night of his assassination (curiously, none have been used to yield a sample of Lincoln’s DNA – that doesn’t exist). What makes this exhibit in Simi Valley, California, stand out is the inclusion of sets and costumes from Lincoln, the recent movie by DreamWorks Studios.

If you saw the movie, you’ll recognize the office where Daniel Day-Lewis gave his entrancing soliloquies, Mary Todd Lincoln’s dresses and parts of Peterson’s Boarding House, the building where Lincoln died.

The exhibit, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, plays into the current fascination with Lincoln’s personal life. For decades he was widely perceived as a caricature – Honest Abe, who freed the slaves – and now Lincoln mania is drawing attention to the real man behind the stovepipe hat, his family and his political genius. Who would guess that 40 years ago, there wasn’t vast interest in Lincoln at all? According to James Cornelius, an Abe expert from Lincoln’s presidential library in Springfield, Ill., the 16th president enjoyed a big moment during the Civil War’s centennial in 1965, but then the fever died down until Ken Burns revived pop culture’s interest with his blockbuster Civil War documentary in 1990.

We’re pretty sure A. Lincoln won’t be the last homage for a while, though it will likely remain the largest.

Groundbreaking held for George Washington’s presidential library at Mount Vernon

George Washington's presidential library groundbreaking, courtesy of PR NewswireOur first president is finally getting his own library. The building, to be located on the grounds of his historic Mount Vernon estate, a short drive from DC, will open in 2013.

Destined to be a George Washington “think tank,” the 45,000 square foot National Library is expected cost $47 million.

The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington will be located on a 15 acre site within walking distance of Washington’s home. It will house more than 15,000 items including 2,500 rare 18th and 19th century books, 87 books that were owned by Washington, and 500 letters, ledgers, and account books that bear George Washington’s writing or signature

“We expect to create the world’s intellectual headquarters for everything to do with George Washington,” said Mount Vernon’s president, James Rees. “By encouraging new research, aggressively reaching out to families across the nation, and hosting conferences that stress Washington’s leadership as the gold standard, we hope to touch the hearts and minds of each new generation.”

A modest residence for visiting scholars, authors and interns will be constructed next to the National Library.

The larger education wing on the east side will provide spaces for seminars, lectures and training programs on George Washington’s life, times and remarkable leadership. Offices in the west wing and on the second floor will supply work spaces for visiting scholars and staff members.

A picturesque drive to the southern end of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon is located just 16 miles from the nation’s capital. The early spring is a pleasant time to visit Washington’s home, as the weather is often warm enough to stroll about the extensive grounds.

See how the presidents live away from home

There’s more to the presidency than the White House. From Camp David to presidential libraries across the country, there are plenty of portals into the lives of those who have held the most powerful office in the world. In fact, the real insights may come not from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but from these other homes. A recent article on CNN offers five prime locations.

Lincoln’s Birthplace: Run by the National Park Service, you can soak in the spirit of our 16th president through exhibits and walking tours. You can even explore a replica of Lincoln’s birth cabin.

Reagan Library: Start at the 40th president’s final resting place, in Simi Valley, CA. In addition to holding President Reagan’s official documents, you can peek into his history, including his college letter sweater and memorabilia from his earlier career in Hollywood.

Mount Vernon: Our first president, George Washington, spent most of his adult life on this estate, which has been open to the public since 1860. Since then, nearly 80 million visitors have passed through. Go on Presidents’ Day, and admission is free.

Hermitage: Stroll through President Andrew Jackson‘s mansion, enjoy the gardens and even enjoy the original log cabin where he lived for a bit with his family. See a piece of “Old Hickory” that rarely makes it into the public eye.

Check out a video of Lincoln’s Birthplace following an ice storm after the jump.

[Via CNN]