Monday, July 25, 2005

Drunkablog review: Museum of "Great He-Mancipator" draws laughter, tears

The NYT hated it, the Wapo liked it but on the travel page, and Andrew Ferguson rejoiced because it pissed off snooty historians.

The new Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield truly works hard for the cutting-edge special effects some reviewers have trashed: an "historian" conjures ghostly visions of the 19th century; Tim Russert reviews the presidential campaign commercials of 1860; a map tracks four years of Civil War military movements in four minutes; and a movie projects Lincoln's life three or six screens at a time while 6000 giant speakers flatten the convolutions of one's brain.

Thankfully the museum also has what my fellow elderly might call real "museum"-type attractions like the"Everett copy" of the Gettysburg Address, too. All that stuff is covered in the links (and the MolineQuadCitiesNewsChannel8ActionNews website has a lot of happystories about the place too, if you feel up to it).

But there's one feature of the museum I haven't even heard mentioned that for certain of my readers would be the most interesting of all--its wonderfully "goth" treatment of Lincoln's assassination.

Love dead. Hate living.

A multi-room display begins with a few of the more charming (and printable) letters Lincoln received during his presidency ("If you don't resign we are going to put a spider in your dumpling and play the devil with you"), and then winds the enquiring visitor through such ghoulish bric-a-brac as:

  • a doll-sized effigy of Lincoln; the face flips up to show Lincoln's true "darkie" face underneath. Very evil-looking.
  • the fan Mary Lincoln carried at Ford's theater;
  • swatches smeared with Lincoln's blood;
  • a scale model of Lincoln's funeral train, the original of which burned in 1911 (scroll to bottom of page);
  • posters expressing the North's extraordinary grief over Lincoln's assassination;

  • an exact replica of the Illinois statehouse chamber where Lincoln lay in state (complete with full-size model of Lincoln lying in state);
  • one of Lewis Powell's prison hoods (all the conspirators were hooded throughout their imprisonment, the exhibit claims);
  • and finally, for swank, an extravagantly mounted copy of "O Captain, My Captain."

    Quite swell.

  • A few bad things

    The special effects in "Lincoln's Eyes." Screens slide dizzyingly in and out as giant "smoke" rings float by and 200-dB screams, gunfire and explosions echo through the theater. Worse, the Chief Designer of this torture chamber apparently has a soft spot for the movie The Tingler (1959), and tries to re-create William Castle's "Percepto" sensation ("scream for your lives!"). None of this noticeably enobles The Story of Lincoln.

    Display-card mistakes. I spotted two of the "the Lincoln's walked home" variety and a couple others in just the half-dozen displays on the main floor. Guess $150 million won't buy a proofreader anymore.

    Security. Absolutely nothing is allowed inside the museum. False teeth? Throw 'em in the pile. Prosthetic limb? Post office is right over there, pal.

    Well, they prohibit pens, anyway.

    Update: Here's the Indepundit on Barack Obama's speech at the museum dedication in April, in which he seemed to compare himself rather favorably to the Abe-meister. Drunkablog: sometimes on top of things.

    Update II: But not very damn often. Until today (8/2/05), I had assassination conspirator Lewis Powell's name as "Lewis Payne." He's the one who tried to slash Secretary of State Seward's throat, and engendered some sympathy after his arrest because he was so cute.

    Update III: About that last update. Look, Lincoln may have been gay, but I'm not.

    No comments: