The new Ford’s Theater Museum is one of the best in Washington, and it doesn’t even have flight simulator.
The museum reopened today to little fanfare. I joined droves of families and a Boy Scout troop in the basement of the historic theater to see the much-hyped exhibits. Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and assassination, the museum and theater closed two years ago for renovations. The theater reopened in February, with a new lobby and more than 650 new seats.
Unlike the Smithsonian behemoths, the Ford’s Theater Museum is small. Still, it’s packed full of informative and often cleverly constructed exhibits. A wooden cabinet contains an open drawer with information cards on Lincoln’s Cabinet members, and large granite milestones mark important points in history for U.S. policy on slavery. There is a fascinating and thorough timeline of April 14, 1865, which examines the movements of both Lincoln and assassin John Wilkes Booth on that fateful day. One of my favorite exhibits displays artifacts from the assassination, including the clothes worn by Lincoln was wearing, the gloves worn by his guest, and the torn coat of the lone actor on stage when Booth leapt from the presidential box.
The museum is mostly one of the old school, without the annoyingly distracting “interactive” exhibits that many modern museums use to lure younger crowds. There are several television screens, but the History Channel–produced video exhibits are simple and interesting. One features a video of all the living ex-presidents reading the Gettysburg Address.
New York Times writer Edward Rothstein offers his thoughts on the new museum here.
— Michael Warren, a Collegiate Network intern at National Review, studies economics and history at Vanderbilt University.