New Abe Lincoln exhibit teaches kids that failure isn’t bad

Abraham Lincoln has a lot he can still teach today’s kids, says Olivia Mahoney, who has created a new exhibit at the Chicago History Museum that examines Lincoln through his own words.

If you go

Lincoln’s Undying Words

Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago

Included in museum admission

Free kids 12 and younger, students 13-22 with ID, adults

Lincoln’s Undying Words examines five of Lincoln’s famous speeches to show how the president changed over time.

One takeaway for kids: “Failure is not bad,” Mahoney says. “You can take failure and reassess what you are doing and make changes.”

The exhibit, she says, will help visitors start to think a little differently about Lincoln.

“I think it’s really how Lincoln had to face really difficult issues and had to make changes in his approach in order to save the union. He had to change within himself. He had to admit his policies weren’t working and his personal change helped put the country on a new track.”

The exhibit also contains Lincoln’s family carriage, which hasn’t been on display for 30 years, and Lincoln’s deathbed. It also makes slavery more real for this generation of kids with displays of shackles, whips, shoes and a ledger outlining the cost of available slaves, including an infant boy.

An audio tour that brings the five speeches to life is available, but you have to request it.

“It helps people of all ages just slow down and … try to understand his journey and his challenges, his crisis and how he had the courage to make some changes,” Mahoney says about the audio tour.

The exhibit is best for middle school and older kids, but there is nothing to discourage families with younger kids from checking it out before visiting other, more fun parts of the museum. We particularly liked the Secret Lives of Objects exhibit and of course, the Konen Family Children’s Gallery.

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