The Truth About Lincoln's Springfield Cottage
Website maintained by Norman Hellmers
Send questions or comments to: norm.hellmers@gmail.com

Universal Themes

The Abraham Lincoln Association (ALA) proposes to spend $400,000 to build a replica of the cottage in which the Lincoln family lived for two years! The ALA also proposes to donate this replica cottage to Lincoln Home National Historic Site and seeks to have it incorporated into the Site through an expansion of its boundary, even though the National Park Service has expressed no interest in having it.

While a replica of the cottage that the young Lincoln family lived in could give a conjectural idea of what their home may have looked like for two years, it would do nothing to enrich our understanding of this great American president. It would provide no meaningful insights into the life of Lincoln or his family.

To communicate the values of the natural and cultural resources that it preserves, the National Park Service uses what is known as “thematic interpretation.” Themes are universal messages, ideals, meanings, and truths. They are the reasons why we preserve our history in the first place. As Freeman Tilden wrote: “Information, as such, is not interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based on information.” A good overview of the principles of interpretation can be found here:
https://www.nps.gov/idp/interp/101/foundationscurriculum.pdf

There is nothing in the ALA’s “Proposal for Creating a Replica of Lincoln’s Springfield Cottage” that qualifies as a theme that cannot be communicated at the existing Lincoln Home. The proposed cottage replica adds nothing to the Site’s interpretive values.

The interpretive themes for Lincoln Home National Historic Site are documented in the Site’s Long Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP). A copy of the plan is available here:   LIHO_LRIP_Entire_Document.pdf 
The primary interpretive themes are on pages 5-7. The six-room, story-and-a-half cottage that was lived in by the Lincolns for about two years does not support any of these primary themes.

The Abraham Lincoln Association proposes to spend $400,000 on building a replica of the cottage in which the Lincoln family lived for two years. This replica does nothing to enhance the interpretive program of Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

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