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One state, 200 years, four presidents

SPRINGFIELD – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will celebrate the Illinois bicentennial with a special exhibit exploring the lives and accomplishments of the four U.S. presidents who called Illinois home.

“From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama” opens Friday, March 23, and runs for the rest of the year. It will examine the connections of those four presidents to Illinois, their achievements as politicians and communicators, and the first ladies who helped them succeed.

Visitors can see rare artifacts gathered from institutions across the country, including:
  • the table where Lee surrendered to President Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War
  • the note cards President Ronald Reagan used in his “Tear Down This Wall” speech 
  • the Grammy that President Barack Obama won for the audio-book version of “Dreams from My Father” 
  • the Bible on which Grant’s head rested after his death
  • a love letter from Reagan to his wife Nancy
  • Obama’s notes from his “Bloody Sunday” speech in Selma
And, of course, the Lincoln Presidential Library will display fascinating Lincoln items such as the last axe he ever used, his briefcase and his ink well and pen.

“This nation would be much different today without the contributions of these four presidents, and they in turn would have been much different without Illinois’ influence on their characters and careers,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “The state’s 200th birthday is the perfect time for people to get to know these fascinating leaders.”

“From Illinois to the White House” is presented with the generous support of PNC Bank and the John Ullrich Foundation.

Visitors get to see unfamiliar sides of the presidents. They’ll learn about Grant being so down on his luck that he had to pawn his watch and about Lincoln using his wrestling skills to win respect in a new community. They’ll see Obama about to start his first job as a lawyer and Reagan as a boy moving from town to town.

Visitors also get the chance to answer presidential trivia questions or pose for pictures behind a presidential lectern as they deliver the Gettysburg Address from a teleprompter.

The exhibit includes the state’s very first constitution, on loan from the Illinois State Archives.

“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is helping with many Bicentennial initiatives, but this exhibit is the library’s biggest and most important contribution,” said Stuart Layne, Executive Director - Governor’s Office of the Bicentennial. “‘From Illinois to the White House’ will be the preeminent exhibit of the state’s Bicentennial Celebration.”

The exhibit is presented in the ALPLM’s Illinois Gallery, a space dedicated to rotating exhibits on state history. There will be no extra fee to see “From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama.” It is provided as part of regular admission to the Lincoln museum (212 N. 6th Street, Springfield).

It will be accompanied by special programming, such as presentations on Reagan’s near-assassination and on the first ladies. Teachers can use the exhibit to help students learn history by choosing from three different lesson plans or attending a special workshop.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to telling the story of America’s 16th president through old-fashioned scholarship and modern technology. 

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art. The museum uses traditional exhibits, eye-catching special effects and innovative story-telling techniques to educate visitors. It also has some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.

For more information, visit www.presidentlincoln.illinois.gov or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama” is part of the state’s official bicentennial celebration.

ABOUT ILLINOIS BICENTENNIAL 
On Dec. 3, 1818, Illinois became the 21st state in the union. The Illinois Bicentennial is a yearlong celebration of what has been BORN, BUILT & GROWN in the state and a reminder of why we are #IllinoisProud.  

Citizens are encouraged to participate in the celebration by visiting www.illinois200.com and using the hashtag #IllinoisProud. Partners and event and project managers planning activities between Dec. 3, 2017, and Dec. 3, 2018, can apply for endorsement to become an official part of Illinois Bicentennial by visiting the site’s PARTICIPATE page. 

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