Harvard library hosting Lincoln exhibit

HARVARD – If the box office circa 2012 wasn’t proof enough, a traveling Abraham Lincoln library exhibit – perched in Harvard for the next six weeks – is reaffirming the country’s deep interest in the top-hatted historical figure.

“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” is in the fifth year of an extended six-year tour across 250 sites. This week, it landed at Harvard Diggins Library, 900 E. McKinley St., its only stop in McHenry County, where it will remain through Sept. 5.

“I think Lincoln has always been a figure of great interest to Americans,” said Susan Brandehoff, project director at the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office. “People feel different ways about him. And I think this exhibit ... tries to objectively examine how he approached all the really important issues that he faced during his presidency.”

Originally sent on the road in 2009 for a 50-site tour, the exhibit was backed by the National Endowment for the Humanities for another 200 sites in 2011, based on the response from libraries and patrons.

“We’ve had high attendance figures,” Brandehoff said. “All the libraries are doing programs, and we’ve had really good attendance at programs. It’s been a very successful exhibit.”

The American Library Association worked with NEH and the National Constitution Center to make the exhibit happen.

Harvard Diggins library staff applied to bring the exhibit to town in 2011, after the relaunch.

They were given a 2014 date – toward the back end of the tour, which will end in December 2015.

“We thought 2014 was so far away,” said Karen Sutera, director at Harvard Diggins.

Volunteers helped set up the exhibit after its arrival this week. Sutera said she’s excited to see the reception from the community. It includes interactive media elements including viewing military battles through an 1860s box camera.

The library today will hold a musical performance to accompany the display. Chris Vallillo will perform “Abraham Lincoln in Song,” at 2 p.m. The program – which is free – combines narration, storytelling and music.

It’s another step toward presenting Lincoln in his entirety – a task Brandehoff said is noble.

“I think he gets painted with a broad brush, and this is an exhibit that gets behind that persona he has for Americans, and really investigates what did happen during his presidency,” she said.