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ISM System :temporary | PERMANENT Gallery: Remembering Lincoln
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temporary | PERMANENT Gallery: Remembering Lincoln - ISM Springfield

  temporary | PERMANENT Gallery: Remembering Lincoln   

temporary | PERMANENT Gallery: Remembering Lincoln

The iconic image of Abraham Lincoln appears in various forms among the collections of the Illinois State Museum. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln and his funeral in Springfield, this exhibition will feature rarely seen objects that honor the memory of our 16th president. Highlights include a hairwork necklace worn by the wife of Lincoln's bodyguard on the funeral train from Washington D.C. to Springfield, a life-size sculpture of the president by Lorado Taft, and a mysterious painting of the president bearing a cross on his forehead. Exhibition runs from February 1, 2015 through May 17, 2015.

In April 1865, the shocking news of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination pierced the heart of a Nation and reverberated throughout the world. One hundred and fifty years later, the tragic event is still unforgettable due to the infiltration of Lincoln’s image and legend into our national culture.

The Illinois State Museum Collection of fine and decorative arts contains many objects related to our sixteenth president, most of which are rarely exhibited. Creation dates for the items exhibited range from 1860, when Lincoln was campaigning to be the first Republican president, to the twenty-first century.

Artists through the last one hundred and fifty years have visually interpreted and reinterpreted Abraham Lincoln and his life, fueling a lasting legacy. The first grouping in this exhibition focuses on works that depict key events in Lincoln’s life, reinforcing the memory of Lincoln’s legendary moments.

Lincoln once told Peoria photographer Roderick M. Cole, “I cannot see why all you artists want a likeness of me, unless it is because I am the homeliest man in the State of Illinois.” In spite of this self-deprecating comment, Lincoln was the most photographed person of his time, with over one hundred photographs of him taken between 1858 and 1865. Some of these images were subsequently used by artists as guides to create new images in different media. The second group of works in this exhibition, therefore, witnesses how the iconic image of Lincoln has been depicted in different ways by various artists who continue to create representations that are immediately identifiable.

The final grouping of objects in the exhibition depicts Lincoln in unexpected ways or unusual places which challenge us to view Lincoln from new perspectives. These objects, when paired with the others in the exhibition, provide contemporary viewers with a glimpse of who Abraham Lincoln was and remind us that his image is still solidly entrenched as part of our visual culture. According to those who knew Lincoln, however, no single image captures all facets of the man. As Lincoln’s secretary and biographer John G. Nicolay wrote after the president’s death, “There are many pictures of Lincoln; there is no portrait of him.”

The Illinois State Museum has partnered with the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition to present free educational programs in conjunction with the Remembering Lincoln exhibition.

Remembering Lincoln Opening Event
2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 1

February 15: "Walt Whitman's Lincoln: "O Captain, My Captain." Presentation by Brian "Fox" Ellis, 2PM, Illinois State Museum

March 1: "Looking at Lincoln - Pictures and Persuasions." Presentation by Julia Marsh, 2PM, Illinois State Museum

April 1: "The Biology and History of the Lincoln Vault Oak." Presentation by Guy Sternberg, Noon, ISM Research and Collectins Center 

For information on additional Lincoln events associated with the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition, go to


Learn about other exhibitions currently at the ISM Museums and Galleries.


ISM Springfield
ISM Dickson Mounds
ISM Lockport
ISM Chicago
ISM Rend Lake

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