"Weren't you ever worried about dumbing Lincoln down?" I once asked him.Simply breathtaking.
Bob sat back in his chair and looked at me for several seconds in silence.
"I don't understand that dumbing down," he said. "You can do a lot worse than aim at today's seventh-grader. Seventh-graders are damn smart these days. They are the toughest crowd there is ... The way they process information in a digital age—it's incredible, beyond anything you or I can do."
Notwithstanding this intelligence—this dazzling capacity for processing information—Bob felt the way to reach these young savants was "through the heart." He said: "You lead with the emotions rather than the intellect. And remember, it's not just any old emotion—the emotion they feel is the one we want them to feel. With Lincoln, we are hooking them into a specific cascade of emotions. Then, if they want to follow up, they can find the intellectual part, read a wall plaque or buy a book or whatever." He called this strategy "emotional engineering" — a way of insinuating knowledge into people who, on their own, would have no interest in it.
"Emotional engineering" at the ALPLM
Slate was charmed enough by Andrew Ferguson's Land of Lincoln to begin running excerpts from the book. Wednesday's featured "How to Design a Museum" with some choice reading about the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library: