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Lincoln Presidential Museum offers a virtual gallery of artifacts

The desk on which Lincoln wrote his First Inaugural speech.
The desk on which Lincoln wrote his First Inaugural speech.

You can’t touch the historical items at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. But a new virtual gallery is the next best thing.

About 100 artifacts are shown as 3D images. They can be enlarged, turned upside down or spun around. Details about each help bring them to life.

For example, the ALPLM promotes being able to crawl around under Abraham Lincoln’s desk, spin the chair where Adlai Stevenson III sat in the U.S. Senate and look down the barrel of Tad Lincoln’s model cannon.

“Every museum visitor has seen some fascinating artifact they would like to pick up and examine more closely. These 3D images offer the next-best thing,” said Christina Shutt, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “They let all of us satisfy our curiosity by peering into the nooks and crannies of history.”

The images can be found at www.PresidentLincoln.Illinois.gov/3D.

A toy cannon presented by Capt. John Dahlgren to Tad Lincoln in 1862.
A toy cannon presented by Capt. John Dahlgren to Tad Lincoln in 1862.

The 3-D scanning was made possible by grant funds the ALPLM received as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief. The U.S. Department of Education awarded grants to governors for the purpose of providing local educational agencies, institutions of higher education and other education-related entities with emergency assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nothing connects us to the past quite like artifacts. They add concrete details as we imagine Abraham Lincoln writing a speech, a soldier risking everything in war, or a lonely boy playing in the White House,” said Lisa Horsley, the ALPLM’s director of library services. “We’re excited to give people around the world a chance to explore these historic treasures.”

The 3-D gallery includes many objects that were part of the Taper Collection, a huge collection of Lincoln material that was housed at the ALPLM for many years. The collection’s owners have removed the items, but digital versions remain available through the ALPLM for anyone who wants to study them.

Highlights of the virtual gallery include:

* The desk where Lincoln wrote much of the speech he would deliver after being sworn in as president

*A bust of Lincoln that was a gift to the Lincolns from the sculptor

* Tools that thieves used in a failed attempt to steal Lincoln’s body from his tomb in Springfield

* A bust of Frank “Free Frank” McWorter, first Black man to plat and register a town in America

* A medal of honor awarded posthumously to Andrew Jackson Smith, a Black man serving in the Civil War

* Campaign items from the presidential bids of Adlai Stevenson II.