Honest Abe on display: Poage Library sheds light on life of President Lincoln with on-campus exhibit

By Haley Morrison, Reporter

The Poage Library’s “Abraham Lincoln: From Rail-splitter to Rushmore” exhibit offers the opportunity to learn more about the president you think you know. The exhibit is open to the public until December.

“It’s important for visitors to come in to see how these great figures of our history can be viewed and how they are viewed in our time,” said Erik Swanson, master’s candidate in museum studies and coordinator of the exhibit. “It’s always important to re-evaluate history and to see where we’re coming from.”

The exhibit consists of five display cases. Each portrays an important part of Lincoln’s life or of the modern perception of him.

The exhibit also features commercials with Lincoln to emphasize his role in today’s culture.

“If they weren’t using Lincoln in a comical way, how would they get people interested?” Swanson said. “That’s the kind of debate I want people to decide when they get here.”

Swanson said the first challenge was finding how to use what he believes is the best piece: a tiny Lincoln standing in front of a log cabin. The exhibit grew, thanks to items borrowed from other campus libraries, purchases and the Poage’s own collection.

“The Poage had this tiny tintype album and we were able to blow up the pictures, which actually had pretty good resolution,” Swanson said.

The tintype contained pictures of Lincoln and are displayed in the exhibit’s artifacts case.

“We try to engage the visitor as much as we could in this tiny, limiting setting,” Swanson said.

In addition to the five displays, the exhibit offers several videos about Lincoln, both historical and comical, trivia and a split rail fence, which was handmade by Swanson and other who helped with the exhibit.

“It hasn’t broken and we’re proud of that,” Swanson said.

The split rail fence stand in front of a picture of Knob Creek, and mirrors the view from Lincoln’s home.

“The cool thing about the Poage is that all the staff has some impact,” Swanson said.

Swanson had help from the Poage staff and other outside sources, such as Ace Hardware, who donated the lumber for the fence.

“No exhibit is ever done alone,” Swanson said. “There is always a tremendous amount of support and help that is always very useful.”

In addition the showing at the Poage Library, each campus library participated in the Lincoln exhibit.

“We focused mainly on Baylor and the Baptists,” Kathy Hillman, Associate Professor and Director of Special Collections for the Central Baylor University Libraries, said.

In order to relate Baylor and the Baptists to Lincoln, the central libraries found an article about Lincoln and the Baptist Church, along with information about the First Baptist Church and George Washington Baines, who was president of Baylor at the time and Lyndon B. Johnson’s grandfather.

“We focused mainly on Baylor and the Baptists,” said Kathy Hillman, associated professor and Director of Special Collections for the central Baylor University libraries. “We borrowed a communion set from First Baptist that was used during the Civil War. They were very gracious to let us borrow that.”

According to Hilllman and Swanson, the library exhibits offer a good chance to show off Baylor’s collection and also learn more about the subject.

“I’m hoping people will come here and learn something new about Lincoln that they didn’t already know, even if it’s just the Lincoln trivia,” Swanson said.

The library intends to offer a rich gold mine of political material for the industrious researcher, according to its website. The Lincoln exhibit emphasizes this, Swanson notes.

“We want to tell the audience to take everything you learn and relate it to our culture and form your opinion,” Swanson said.