Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to display original Gettysburg Address


SPRINGFIELD – An original, handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address is going on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which has also launched a new web tool that makes it easy for anyone to study Lincoln’s famous speech in detail.

The presidential library’s copy of the Gettysburg Address will be exhibited in the Treasures Gallery from the speech’s anniversary on Nov. 19 through Nov 30. After that, it returns to a climate-controlled vault for safekeeping.

The Gettysburg Address is not just Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, it’s one of the most famous speeches ever given. Its stirring prose and historic impact have been studied by everyone from schoolchildren to scholars.

The new webpage gives visitors an up-close look at the presidential library’s copy of the speech, explaining its history and how it differs from other copies. It also examines the meaning and impact of Lincoln’s words. Just click on key words in the speech and up pop boxes full of helpful information.

The site also includes educational resources for teachers and parents, a photo gallery and links to other sources of information about the address.

“In 272 powerful words, Abraham Lincoln captured the pain of the Civil War and the truth of what was at stake: a new birth of freedom,” said Christina Shutt, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “This handwritten copy of his address is a national treasure. We hope everyone will come see it in person, but we’re also proud to offer a new tool so anyone, anywhere can learn about the Gettysburg Address.”

The State of Illinois has owned this copy of the address – known as the Everett Copy – since 1944, when the state’s children helped raise money to buy it from private owners. It is one of just five surviving copies written by Lincoln himself.

“It is a tremendous honor to care for this document and to continue interpreting it and sharing it with our visitors,” said Dr. Christian McWhirter, the library and museum’s Lincoln historian. “The Gettysburg Address is the most famous speech in the English language and still inspires us to purse the ‘unfinished work’ of building a better nation.”

When the address is displayed this year, new features will make it more accessible to people with visual impairments. By scanning QR codes with their mobile phones, visitors will be able to hear a reading of the speech and the display label that explains the speech’s significance or see an easy-to-read text version of the speech.

Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of a national cemetery for the thousands of Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. It opens with the famous phrase “Four score and seven years ago” and finishes by describing the Civil War as a battle to preserve government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.

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