How do you look at Lincoln?

That is the question we are asking all week. In collaboration with Ford’s Theatre and President Lincoln’s Cottage, we are choosing one group of visitors a day to participate in a special program. If we choose your group, you will receive a trip to the roof of the museum, a copy of our exhibition book Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life, and a featured spot on our museum blog.

On Sunday (April 18), Jennifer Valerio and Jason Arce from Providence, Rhode Island, were on a whirlwind trip to D.C. when they were chosen while viewing a timeline of images that show how Lincoln’s appearance changed during his life. When I asked them what they noticed about the transformation in his face, I got some great insight. 

Jennifer was struck by how “he aged so much. By the time he was 56 years old, look at the dark circles under his eyes.”

Jason Arce and Jennifer Valerio 

 Jason Arce and Jennifer Valerio

Jason attributed Lincoln’s rapid aging to the everyday stress as president. “[It’s hard] always having to be concerned about how you carry yourself.” Jason also had great insight about how technology adds another twist to life as president. “You are always in the limelight and today with the internet and media, you really have to watch yourself and the things you do and say.”

Our Monday (April 19) visitors, a great family from Brookfield, Connecticut, were looking at Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress when our surprise crew chose them.

Elizabeth Schiesser, in 6th grade, said she was looking at Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress because it was her favorite color—purple.

Bob, Elizabeth, and Tommy Schiesser

Bob, Elizabeth, and Tommy Schiesser

Her brother, Tommy, in 3rd grade, noticed how the dress was very “puffy.” I agree with you Tommy—it is so puffy! I’m glad ladies don’t have to wear those big heavy dresses anymore!

Along with dad Bob, Elizabeth and Tommy were on a visit to Washington, D.C., to see the Smithsonian Institution. I think they had lots of fun seeing the National Mall from the rooftop of the museum.

Both our Sunday and Monday groups had insight into why Lincoln was still important today. Elisabeth talked about how Lincoln was “a good man who stopped slavery because it wasn’t right.”

And Jason talked about how Lincoln influenced his own place in America today. “Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. This helped us, as Hispanics, in the future. It was a big contribution—freedom.”

Who will we pick next for a special trip to the rooftop? It could be you if we spot you in our exhibition, Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life!

Johanna Mutz is a Floor Manager at the National Museum of American History. Abraham Lincoln is her historical crush.

Posted at 11:13 am EDT in Now on View,Remember Abe