Introducing Today’s Visitors to The 16th President of the United States
With a mission to inspire civic engagement and share the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum wanted to create an experience that transported visitors to a time when the United States was going through unprecedented change.
Challenged with presenting a serious story in a way that was approachable to a broad audience while respecting the rigors of academic research, LF Studios created realistic figures to convey the stories and emotions surrounding Abraham Lincoln and people whose lives he changed in unfathomable ways.
LF Studios worked with the museum design team, historians, and a variety of specialty suppliers to catalog and plan each detail for the figures. The entirety of the museum archives were made available as needed, including the earliest known photograph of President Lincoln captured in 1846.
As these scenes were static in nature, the goal was to select the best “freezeframe” of each chapter in the story of President Lincoln’s life and present it with enough emotion and context to compel the audience to understand and appreciate the entirety of the historical events happening before them.
What We Built
In total, LF Studios created 46 figures of President Lincoln, his family and other key people in his story. Each figure’s sculpt was hand-crafted down to the smallest expression to ensure the correct emotion was conveyed and poses were developed to suggest the overall action of the scene.
The costumes were built using antique clothing from the era or the closest possible modern version. Hair styles matched the historical reference and reflected the impact the events of the scene would have on them. Once created, these figures were dropped into historically accurate scenes with the appropriate lighting and sound to complete the presentation.
The use of static figures in scenic vignettes was resisted by some museum stakeholders and commentators during the development of the exhibit. Skeptics viewed the use of figures and environments as making history into an amusement park, rather than seeing dimensional scenes as a powerful medium to pull visitors into this important story.
The design team and representatives from each discipline worked together to synthesize and present the best information available from written accounts, photographic reference, and surviving artifacts so the story and emotions of history were presented in a powerful way that most other media cannot achieve.
The chapters in President Lincoln’s life were presented in a direct and engaging manner that compelled audiences to face different aspects of slavery, politics, social struggles and life in the mid-nineteenth century.
A key scene in the exhibit shows a slave family being torn apart as they are auctioned off to different owners. The scene demands the visitor reconcile with what they are seeing, spurring conversations and often bringing them to tears.