Now those words are the focus of a major new exhibition presented
at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and mounted
in cooperation with the Chicago History Museum. The exhibition
commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end and
“Undying Words: Lincoln 1858-1865” opens Nov. 22 at the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., and
runs throughout 2015. It is presented with the assistance of Archer
Daniels Midland Co.
Visitors will see more than 120 documents and artifacts related to
Lincoln and his biggest speeches. The items on display include a
copy of the constitutional amendment ending slavery, the bloody
gloves Lincoln carried when he was shot, a carriage used by the
president and his wife in Washington and the bed where Lincoln died
after lingering for nine hours.
“Undying Words” is part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
and Museum’s celebration of its 10th birthday. More than 3.6 million
people have visited the ALPLM over that time.
“The staff of the library and museum are honored that people have
responded so enthusiastically to our efforts to tell the Abraham
Lincoln story. We wanted to thank them – and to honor Lincoln – with
an exhibition worthy of his impact on history,” said Amy Martin,
director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which
operates the presidential library.
Gary T. Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum, said: “We
are delighted to have contributed to this exhibition, which explores
Lincoln’s ideas through five key speeches made during the most
critical chapter in our nation’s history. Today, those speeches
continue to challenge and inspire people everywhere.”
The heart of “Undying Words” are five momentous Lincoln speeches:
his “House Divided” speech of 1858, his First Inaugural Address in
1861, the 1863 Gettysburg Address, his 1865 Second Inaugural and his
final speech, on Reconstruction, given just three days before his
Historic phrases from those speeches are familiar to almost
“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and
half free,” Lincoln said in 1858. And when he was sworn in as
president, he pleaded, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not
be enemies.” Four bloody years later, he said, “Fondly do we
hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may
speedily pass away.”
The exhibition will help visitors understand what Lincoln was trying
to accomplish with each speech, what was going on in the world
around him and what impact his words ultimately had on the nation.
“Undying Words” also includes dramatic objects that have never
before been seen at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Among the highlights:
- The model for Daniel Chester French’s sculpture in the
• Beautiful and touching letters of condolence to Mrs. Lincoln
- Items from African-Americans the Lincolns knew in Washington
- A 5-foot-tall Lincoln campaign banner from 1860
- What is believed to be the largest oil portrait of Lincoln
- A cane the Lincolns gave to the minister who conducted their
Three documents that are key to Lincoln’s legacy will also be
on display when “Undying Words” opens. To minimize damage to the
documents, they will be removed at different times during the
exhibition’s run and replaced by a facsimile or illustration.
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Visitors will get to see a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg
Address until Jan. 20. A signed copy of the Emancipation
Proclamation (which declared that “all persons held as slaves
within said designated States ... are, and henceforward shall be
free”) will be displayed until Feb. 16.
A signed copy of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery,
will be included until March 16. Lincoln signed that document below
a phrase he helped fashion: “Neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude ... shall exist within the United States.”
Together, these speeches, documents and artifacts illustrate the
evolution of Lincoln’s ideas on equality, from simply taking a
personal stand against slavery to helping develop a national
majority that favored permanently ending slavery and preserving the
Union as a free republic.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will offer a
variety of related programs and events related to “Undying Words.”
- Arborist Guy Sternberg discussing the “last living witness
to Lincoln’s funeral” – a large tree in Oak Ridge Cemetery
- History professor Richard Wightman Fox giving an illustrated
presentation called “Living and Dying for the Nation: Lincoln on
- A special display in the museum’s Treasures Gallery of items
concerning Lincoln’s death
- Public readings of Lincoln’s major speeches on their
anniversaries, each accompanied by a Q&A with ALPLM historians.
- A look on Nov. 19 at items from the ALPLM collection that
relate to Illinois legislators, including Lincoln.
For more on “Undying Words” and the ALPLM’s 10th anniversary,
“Undying Words” is a joint effort of the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum and the Chicago History Museum.
Both institutions contributed expertise, artifacts, money and
The exhibition was curated by Olivia Mahoney, senior curator at
the Chicago History Museum, and James Cornelius, curator of the
presidential library’s Lincoln Collection.
Mahoney has been with the Chicago History Museum since 1980,
curating many exhibitions, including “Abraham Lincoln
Transformed” and “Chicago: Crossroads of America.”
Cornelius has been curator of the Lincoln Collection. In
addition to planning exhibits, he edited and co-authored the
museum’s Official Commemorative Guide and its publication
“Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America.”
Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum, thanked the Chicago History
Museum for helping create the exhibition.
“We hope it generates widespread discussion about Lincoln the
president and the master politician,” Mackevich said. “What
qualities made his leadership unique? What forces shaped his
views on equality? These are questions worth weighing as
important anniversaries draw near.”
[Chicago History Museum and Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum]