Introducing “Remembering Lincoln”

In 1865, as people around the country and around the world heard about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, they recorded their reactions in many forms—from written materials like diaries and letters to decorative items like ribbons and flags.

Today, those items that survive are stored all over the country and the world, from large museum collections to people’s attics. There’s no one place where you can go to look for them, to learn the stories they tell about how President Lincoln’s assassination and death shaped national—and international—opinion and sentiment.

Ford’s Theatre Society is pleased to announce that we are creating that place. We recently received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create an online collection, titled Remembering Lincoln, that will compile and share responses to the assassination from around the country and world.

Since it happened nearly 150 years ago, President Lincoln’s assassination seems far removed from most of our lives and experiences. Many of us have learned the facts in history books (and we hope from visiting Ford’s Theatre in person!). But what did it feel like to live in that time and hear the news of the President’s assassination? The goal of this digital collection is to take us from knowing to feeling what it was like to experience that time.

We plan for this digital collection to be useful for people in many capacities—not just teachers, scholars or students working on History Day projects, but also ordinary history buffs looking for something interesting to read.

We intend to launch the full website in time for the 150th anniversary of the assassination. Until then, we’re going to bring you along on the journey of gathering the collection. As we get items, we’ll share those with you. We’ll tell you about what we’re doing and give you opportunities to share your thoughts and questions about what we’re learning. We’ll give thoughts on how different people can use the final product.

To build this online collection, we’re working with an illustrious group of partners, who will help digitize materials from their collections and regions. Thus far, these include:

We also have an excellent group of scholars and digital humanists to advise throughout the process, including:

Dr. David Goldfield, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte; Dr. Martha Hodes, Professor of History at New York University and author of Mourning Lincoln: Personal Grief and the Meaning of the American Civil War, to be published by Yale University Press in 2015; Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, Public Historian at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry and curator of the Washington State Historical Society exhibition Civil War Pathways; Dr. Robert Nelson, Professor of American Studies and Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond; Dr. Libby O’Connell, Chief Historian and Senior Vice President, Corporate Outreach, at A+E Networks; Dr. Matthew Pinsker, Professor of History at Dickinson College, and Project Director of The House Divided Project; Dr. Nancy Proctor, Director of Mobile Strategy at the Smithsonian Institution; Jennifer Rosenfeld, Associate Director of Educational Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University; Dr. Daniel Stowell, Director and Editor, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln; Jon Voss, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Historypin.

Treasures in YOUR Attic?

And we are looking for help from you! Does your family have items like diaries or letters that show what your ancestors thought about the Lincoln assassination? Please keep an eye out here, as we will soon have ways for you to share and upload what you have.

When the website is complete, it will be the place to go to learn how people responded to the assassination of President Lincoln. But it will be complete only with your help.

Want to know more? Keep an eye out here, or feel free to email me at rememberinglincoln@fords.org.

David McKenzie is Digital Projects Manager at Ford’s Theatre, coordinating the planning of the Remembering Lincoln digital collection.