Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War, a traveling exhibition opening at the Kentucky Museum on Nov. 3, examines how President Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War — the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.
Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of America’s greatest presidents, but his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator? This exhibition provides no easy answers; rather, it encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with Lincoln’s struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality. This exhibition develops a more complete understanding of Abraham Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.
“We are very pleased to have been selected as an early site for this exhibition,” said Connie Foster, Interim Dean for WKU Libraries. “During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was faced with enormous challenges. This exhibition shows how Lincoln struggled with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties—all questions our country’s founding charter left unanswered.”
According to Timothy Mullin, Department Head for Library Special Collections, each section of the exhibit features information about a different aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. “For example, the section about slavery examines the various policy options Lincoln once embraced and how his thoughts about slavery evolved over time,” said Mullin. “Most importantly, the exhibit helps visitors understand why Lincoln’s struggle with the Constitution still matters today.”
The National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.
The traveling exhibition is composed of informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.
WKU Libraries and Kentucky Museum will sponsor several free programs for the public and campus community in connection with the exhibition, including a reception at the grand opening on Nov. 3. Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War will be on display at the Kentucky Museum until Dec. 6.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson, (270) 745-6977.