Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Sassy studied Abraham Lincoln at the end of this past school year, and she was fascinated by him. It was a great study, and I always love it when the children get sincerely interested in history.

Because so much of history can be dry facts and long-ago dates, I always try to do hands-on history whenever possible. When the opportunity came to travel south last month, I chose our path to take us by the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in southern Indiana.

The Memorial is part of the US National Park service. The website didn't give a lot of detail on what to expect, so in typical me-fashion, I packed the car and set off, still not knowing but hoping for the best. It really is just as straightforward as presented on the website -- a small but lovely museum, a 15-minute introduction film, a short walk to the cemetery and farm site. The children also got a nice little "Junior Ranger" packet, which had puzzles and questions that they worked/answered as we walked the museum and site.

[Aside: Everyone who knows my love of Star Trek (original series!) will realize how delighted I was that Leonard Nimoy was the narrator of the film! We were two syllables in when I gasped, elbowed both children, and said, "You realize that is SPOCK, right?!"]

The film details Lincoln's life in Indiana, which sets the stage for the artifacts and reproductions in the rest of the museum. The museum is small, but very nicely displayed. Sassy loved that they had a cabinet that was built by Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas.

(Is it just me, or does Thomas look like an older Harrison Ford in this photo?)

Also in the photo is Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died just a couple of years after the family moved to Indiana.

They also enjoyed the interactive "house" which had a spotlight over certain components of the pioneer household with explanations of each.

After the museum, we took a small walk up the hill to Pioneer Cemetery, where Nancy Hanks Lincoln is buried. This fascinated the children more than anything else. Maybe it's because my love of old cemeteries has rubbed off? Maybe it's because it is a very personal, tangible link to such an important person in our American history? I'm not sure, but we stood in front of this for far longer than I expected. They were mesmerized.

(That big shadow isn't me; it's a stubborn tree that wouldn't move for me!)

A little further down the path, past the cemetery is where the Lincoln farm actually stood. There are outlines of the footings of the original farmhouse and a reproduction of the house just a little further down the path. The reproduction farmhouse has characters in costume to answer questions and interact with the visitors. While we were there, one of the men was trying to get a rooster in the pen. That was quite unintentionally entertaining!

Sadly, we didn't spend much time there (and I completely forgot to take photos) because the mosquitoes were having a nice feast on Sassy, who is not only tasty to them but allergic as well. It never occurred to me to bring bug spray!

All in all, we spent about three hours at the Memorial, and it was definitely worth stopping. Next time we have reason to go that direction, I'll probably stop again, just so we can see more of the farmhouse. When it isn't 90+ degrees, and I'm armed with bug spray!