Department of Tourism
Lincoln Museum Adding Expanded Library to Its Attractions
Kentucky’s Official Lincoln Museum, housed in two renovated historic buildings in Hodgenville’s downtown district, is looking to refurbish and expand its library of books and other documents in time for the kickoff of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial in February 2008.
The museum, which features 12 dioramas with lifelike wax figures depicting key events in Lincoln’s life on the first floor, also hopes to install a computer lab in the second-floor library to assist researchers, said museum Director Iris LaRue.
The museum has raised about $10,000 of the project’s estimated cost of $100,000, but full-scale fund-raising hasn’t yet begun, LaRue said.
Among the artifacts in the library is an original article clipped from the New York Herald newspaper describing Lincoln’s assassination in Washington, D.C. in 1865.
The presidential box at Ford’s Theater in which Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth is represented by one of the museum’s dioramas, which also features a figure of Mary Todd Lincoln, the president’s wife. Other dioramas include the Civil War battlefield where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address, a depiction of Lincoln preparing his second inaugural speech, and a scene of the 16th president drafting the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved African Americans in the South.
Other lifelike depictions include one of the debates between presidential rivals Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas and a representation of photographer Matthew Brady’s studio with Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad, posing for a portrait.
Each of the 21 figures, which are composed of wax faces and hands, human hair, wooden bodies, and authentic period clothing, cost between $3,000 and $5,000. The wax figures were originally housed in a gift shop in Springfield, Ill., but the daughter of the store’s late owner offered them to the LaRue County Chamber of Commerce in 1988. When the chamber succeeded in raising $25,000 in six weeks, the birth of Hodgenville’s Lincoln Museum was ensured, LaRue said.
More than 300 volunteers, mostly from LaRue County, worked in their spare time for about a year to renovate a vacant family-owned department store to house the wax figures. “We opened the museum in 1989 and expanded to the adjacent building in 2001,” LaRue said. “We became Kentucky’s official Lincoln museum in 1991.” A federal grant helped cover the renovation costs, including installing an elevator and restrooms for visitors, she said.
About 80 percent of the other items in the collection, which includes a large portrait of Lincoln that originally hung in the state capitol in Frankfort, campaign buttons, clothing, civil war artifacts and other memorabilia, were donated to the museum. On the second floor, visitors can also watch a 21-minute film on Lincoln’s life.
The museum averages about 25,000 paid visitors a year, but LaRue anticipates a large increase during the two-year Lincoln Bicentennial in 2008-2009. Currently admission costs $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors and military and $1.50 for children 5-12 years old. Groups are welcome, with admission of $2 each. LaRue advises calling ahead to arrange for a guided tour. The museum is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday-Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.
The Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park is located about 3 miles south of Hodgenville. Hodgenville is about 55 miles south of Louisville at the junction of U.S. 31E and Ky. 61.
The Kentucky Department of Tourism, an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, exists to promote The Commonwealth as a travel destination, generate revenue and create jobs for Kentucky’s economy.