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What did the nation's 16th beloved president have in his pockets the night he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in April 1865? Starting Wednesday, a visit to the California Museum will provide the public with a rare opportunity to see such artifacts with a naked eye.
After its premiere in Washington, DC beginning February 12, the Library of Congress art exhibit With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition was scheduled to show in five locations on its national tour, with the California Museum being the only stop on the West Coast.
The exhibition marks the bicentennial birth of the 16th president, its focus expanding beyond Lincoln’s presidency, capturing the years leading up to his presidency and the social unrest that occurred throughout his lifetime, covering the struggle for civil liberties and the Civil War. The exhibit also provides onlookers with a very humanizing perspective of Lincoln's character as an individual.
Sacramento media got the first glimpse of the exhibit at the California Museum Tuesday morning. The exhibition was opened a day early to the press for a guided tour with the museum's deputy director Amanda Meeker and William Jacobs, Chief of the Interpretive Programs Office at the Library of Congress.
The exhibit itself includes 200 artifacts reflecting Abraham Lincoln’s life, including the Bible used for Lincoln's 1861 inauguration -- which President Obama used for his own oath of office -- a rocking chair from Lincoln's days spent as a practicing attorney in Springfield, the Emancipation Proclamation and other documents written by his hand, as well as personal belongings, including his pocket contents from the night he was assassinated.
Two pairs of glasses, one of which he had repaired with thread, were among the items found in his pocket, along with a pocketknife.
Jacobs stopped in front of a map and chart display, showing the 13-day route between the president's burial in Springfield and Washington, DC.
"There was such an outpouring of grief following Lincoln's assassination," he explained. He pointed to a illustration of people mourning Lincoln's death and noted "the heart-rending expressions of grief expressed."
Jacobs pointed out another significant piece, the first bronze casting of plaster modeled for a life mask of Lincoln two months before his assassination. "It shows [the] drain on his physical well-being as a result of the Civil War."
Meeker told press one of the objects she finds most interesting is Lincoln's copy of Kirkham's grammar book. Meeker explained that with less than a year of formal education, the president used the book as a tool to educate himself and "became one of America's greatest orators."
On the other side of the room, Meeker and Jacobs identified Lincoln's collection of newspaper cutouts, namely from the Lincoln and Douglas debates, which he pasted onto pages of a small book. Jacobs said that the president used the collection as a quick reference guide to people's thoughts on issues, "much like a Blackberry or an iPhone." Careful viewing beneath the display glass shows Lincoln's handwriting in the margins of the clippings.
Media stations are located throughout the exhibition to provide observers more insight on the artifacts with audio-visual presentations.
An evening reception is scheduled for museum members at the museum’s Constitution Courtyard this evening with First Lady Maria Shriver, Congressman Dan Lungren and Dr. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor and Lincoln scholar, in attendance.
With Malice Toward None will remain on display at the California Museum through August 22. After August 22 the exhibition will be shown in Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Georgia.
For information on the Museum’s hours, location and other exhibits, visit this link.
For more information on Malice Toward None, see this link.
Photo Credit: Images 1 through 5 courtesy of California Museum, photos 6 through 11 by Jenn Walker.