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"To attract today's generation, glass boxes and yellow labels may not be enough".
April 16, 2005 7:44 AM   Subscribe

"Calling it a museum is really a misnomer". The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opens today in Springfield, Ill., with a silicone Lincoln posing in the rotunda and Tim Russert introducing mock TV attack ads from the campaign of 1860. In the Union Theater, an abolitionist roars "Lincoln was no friend of the black man" as hologram cannons boom to signal the start of the Civil War. Strobe lights flash; the plush seats jerk and rumble like a ride at Universal Studios. When Atlanta burns, the air feels hot. This is history, Hollywood style: A $90-million look at Honest Abe's life and times — with special effects created by the "Jurassic Park" and "Terminator 3" team of Stan Winston Studios (link with sound).
posted by matteo (14 comments total)

 
People have been saying for years that this is what museums in the future would be like. Silly us for thinking that the whole idea seemed rather far-fetched!
posted by clevershark at 7:52 AM on April 16, 2005


And in the "Illusion Corridor," visitors walk past holograms of disembodied faces, each of them shouting an angry, often racist, opinion about slavery, Lincoln or the war.

Real life imitates SouthPark again:

Tour Guide: [leads them through the museum] Now, did you know that words we use can show intolerance? [leads the group to a tunnel entrance] Let's begin our tour with a walk through our Tunnel of Prejudice, to show you what it can feel like to be discriminated against. [motions for the boys to enter, and the boys enter]

Voice: [the words it says appear on the walls of the tunnel as it says them, then disappear] QUEER. BEANER. CHINK. NIGGER. HEEB. FAGGOT. CRACKER. SLOPE. [the boys are suitably shocked as they move along the tunnel's people mover, but Cartman is grinning from ear to ear]

Cartman: Aw man, this is awesome! ["JAP"]

Tour Guide: [at the other end of the tunnel with the parents] Now you know how it feels.

Cartman: [excited, runs up to the guide] I wanna ride again! I wanna ride again!
posted by 2sheets at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2005


This sounds a lot like the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin that's been around for a few years. I didn't realize interactive museums were so futuristic.
posted by blendor at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2005


Woohoo! It's like a museum TO THE EXTREME!!
posted by graventy at 10:42 AM on April 16, 2005


This sounds pretty amazing, because lets face it, to most people history is a terribly boring topic which brings back memories of 6th grade history and memorizing dates for the test. I love how the historians are trying to be as offended as possible. Perhaps the in the follow-up articles they'll be quoted as saying "I was totally into Lincoln way before all of you."
posted by skallas at 10:44 AM on April 16, 2005


Also, whats with the double standard? If a natural history museum or a science museum has a new interactive exhibit its all cheers, but add a CD-ROM section to the library (or internet access) or a talking Lincoln and you've suddenly committed some crime.
posted by skallas at 10:48 AM on April 16, 2005


Swag!
There's no restaurant?
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:42 AM on April 16, 2005


2Sheets: What you describe is pretty much what happens in the introduction section at the Museum of Tolerance. Not quite as harsh, but same idea; undoubtedly that's what SP was parodying there, since it was controversial when it opened. Here's more about that exhibit.
posted by Miko at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2005


"In the Union Theater, an abolitionist roars 'Lincoln was no friend of the black man'..."

I hope maybe they have Frederick Douglass' Eulogy on Lincoln playing somewhere to offset what sounds like a fairly stupid jaunt into historical revisionism. But I doubt it.

What idiots. They don't have to make history boring to get it right.
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2005


Even when the historical record is unambiguous, the museum sometimes improvises. John Wilkes Booth famously declared "sic semper tyrannis" (Latin for "thus always to tyrants") after assassinating Lincoln. That sounded too arcane for modern ears. So in one of the multimedia presentations, the script writers have Booth growling instead: "Vengeance shall be mine."

Lame.
posted by Tullius at 3:49 PM on April 16, 2005


Also, whats with the double standard?

yes and no, skallas -- I'm convinced that it's easier to make natural history fun -- or marginally more fun -- than it is to do the same treatment to history. the risk of dumbing down very complicated events it's just so much higher.
OK, I love American science museums because -- most of those I've visited at least -- rightly take themselves much less seriously than their stuffy (and often less well-financed) European counterparts.

but Presidential libraries and museums are another matter entirely -- I can maybe accept the Simpson-Bruckheimer dumbing down of the "action sequences" but most of what I read on the museum dedicated to the man who was very possibly your country's greatest President (I'd choose FDR but I'm digressing) sounds just very crass and historically very unsound.

example -- LBJ, a key player in America's post-war history. God knows I could live without a RoboLBJ sitting on a porcelain toilet and barking orders to his staff as the American helicopters blow up Vietnamese stuff, in Dolby Surround, on a big plasma screen in LBJ's bathroom.

JFK's museum in Boston is quite tastefully done, but even they couldn't avoid the temptation of the cheap, fake little replica of a TV studio and the fake chairs and hats of the 1960 Democratic Convention.

Hollywood treatments seldom do justice to history -- neither, in my opinion, do EPCOT-style Presidential museums
posted by matteo at 4:05 PM on April 16, 2005


(see, I just doubt that kids who may find the strobe lights and trembling seats fun will end up picking up a book -- say, David Herbert Donald's excellent bio -- to try to find out how complicated that apparently very simple man actually was)
posted by matteo at 4:07 PM on April 16, 2005


God knows I could live without a RoboLBJ sitting on a porcelain toilet and barking orders to his staff as the American helicopters blow up Vietnamese stuff, in Dolby Surround, on a big plasma screen in LBJ's bathroom.

RoboLBJ.
posted by gigawhat? at 11:21 AM on April 18, 2005


that is just wrong
posted by matteo at 11:40 AM on April 20, 2005


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