Sunday, May 18, 2008

Looking at Lincoln

Visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum yesterday, I wasn't wowed by the lifelike figures standing about (John Wilkes Booth outside the White House!). I wasn't wowed by the sound effects (e.g., snoring in the Lincoln cabin) or the Ivesian blur of choral music, orchestral music, and (live) guitar and dulcimer. The Scholarship meets Showmanship™ philosophy of the so-called "Experience Museum" leaves me cold. The experience I want in a museum is that of being able to look at things without distraction. Dowdy me.

What I best liked in the museum: Looking at the back inside cover of one of Lincoln's law books, filled with pencil jottings. Looking at a sequence of photographs that show how Lincoln aged through the Civil War. And in a temporary exhibit about presidential campaigns, looking at a television camera used in a 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate. It was a CBS camera, surprisingly small, with a broken plastic 2 on its front. I wonder if it might be the camera on the right in this photograph (no. 1 is on the left).

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