The latest news from the Lincoln Library and Museum crosses the line into self parody.
* Remember the animatronic Lincoln figure at the 1964 World's Fair? It failed to communicate Lincoln's presence, as any robot would. It was a foolish display of gratuitous technology.
* Remember the late 1960's Philip K. Dick novel We Can Build You? A couple of instrument salesmen commission a NASA engineer to program a Lincoln robot, which escapes and has to be recaptured.
Now we have the Lincoln Library promising this:
This is no still-life sculpture of young Lincoln or a mechanized mannequin. It is a moving, talking, interactive Abraham Lincoln, brought to life through lasers, computer imaging and holograms. Historians had no photographs of Lincoln as a child to work from, so a forensic scientist created the childhood figure of Abe based on images of the president as an older man.
Throughout the museum, visitors will be able to ask up to 100 questions of the president, and he will stop what he's doing, stroke his beard (in his later years) and slowly answer the question in words agreed upon by numerous Lincoln scholars.
This is hilarious.
But that's not all. Visitors will be able to watch Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather deliver television reports on the 1860 presidential election and even attend Lincoln's funeral in 1865.
Reality trumps fantasy once again.
The whole story is here, but may require your registration to read. So let me highlight a few mundane but interesting bits from the same article:
The library and museum will be managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, with no input from the National Archives and Records Administration or any other federal agency.
Translation: despite federal money used, it will provide a pure state-level patronage nest.
And what has become of Richard Norton Smith? What has become of the director who refused appointment by Republicans out of fear of patronage abuse but who later accepted his directorship from a Democratic governor?
"He is now responsible for coordinating the finishing touches at the Lincoln Museum, which should open in stages beginning in late summer."
Is that a demotion or a sidelining? And what else do these finishing touches include?
Visitors are drawn into the violence of the Civil War through a three-dimensional moving battlefield as muskets fire, cannons explode and men scream in agony.
A floor-to-ceiling screen shows the movement of battles over time, from north to south. A ticker in the back of the exhibit keeps count of the casualties as the war progresses.
I'm doing my history at the Lincoln Library and Museum, baby.