From capital projects, exhibits, collections acquisition, and theatrical productions to scholarship, digitization, teacher training, and student field trips, since 2000 the Lincoln Presidential Foundation has advanced the study, understanding, and appreciation of Abraham Lincoln’s legacy in the region, nation, and the world, with the backing of our supporters and partners.

Capital Projects and Exhibits

After the Foundation helped build and support a state-of-the-art museum and library dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, we raised funds for exhibits and collections to fill the galleries. To date, more than five million visitors from 100-plus countries have visited exhibits supported by the Foundation.


The Foundation brought to Illinois a world-class exhibition by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” created in partnership with the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, charted a new direction for one of America's best-known living photographers.

In addition to featuring extraordinary images of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s hat, a dress worn by Emily Dickinson, Annie Oakley's silver riding boots, animal bones collected by Georgia O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams's darkroom, Elvis Presley's motorcycle, and a bullet hole made by Oakley, the exhibition highlighted Abraham Lincoln. Leibovitz photographed the stovepipe hat and gloves Lincoln had with him on the night of his assassination, as well as a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address, and photographic negatives of Lincoln and the Lincoln Memorial. The exhibition was presented with generous support from Macy’s and ADM.

From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama

From Illinois to the White House exhibit. A teenage girl stands at a mock President of the United State podium, pretending to make a speech.

Created for the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, this exhibit focused on four United States presidents who had lived in Illinois—examining their backgrounds, challenges, and achievements, as well as the first ladies who helped them succeed.

The exhibit, made possible with support from PNC Bank and the John Ullrich Foundation, contained an array of priceless artifacts never before assembled for public display, including President Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall” speech cards, the “Appomattox Surrender” table used by General Grant during the Civil War, a 3D bust of President Obama from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Michelle Obama’s attorney oath, and President Lincoln’s briefcase (used on his daily commute from the Soldiers’ Home to the White House and back again).

Undying Words: Lincoln, 1858–1865

Made possible by generous support from ADM, and in partnership with the Chicago History Museum, this exhibit traced Lincoln’s evolving views on slavery and racial equality through five key speeches he delivered between 1858 and 1865. Lincoln’s powerful words evince an inner transformation that would help save the nation and move it closer to its founding ideals of human freedom and equality.

The Rivalry: Cubs vs. Cards

With support from Anheuser Busch and assistance from both teams and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Foundation helped launch this exhibit, which explored an ongoing baseball rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis that predates the Civil War. Throughout the 1800s, including in Lincoln’s time, the cities competed in the fields of transportation, business and attempts to attract settlers. By the last decades of the 1800s, this competition had expanded to a new arena: the baseball diamond.

Educational and Public Programming

Providing opportunities for learners from all backgrounds and of all ages and abilities has been a Foundation priority from the start. We believe in the power of connecting to tangible history and the importance of historical literacy in everyday life.

Field Trips

Tens of thousands of students from Title 1 schools have received immersive, educational experiences thanks to our supporters. Many schools have reported that field trips are some of the only opportunities their students have to explore the world beyond their hometowns, to see themselves in history, and to expand their horizons.

For example, Caterpillar helped us provide learning opportunities for thousands of middle school students from Peoria and many other Title I schools across Illinois. As one student shared:

“I learned so many things about Abraham Lincoln in a way that made learning about history very fun.”

2015 Roosevelt Magnet School Participant

Teacher Institutes

The Foundation and its partners have made it possible for thousands of teachers from across the country to benefit from expert scholarship presentations, professional workshops and immersive historic site experiences that benefit the educators and their students for years to come. With help from AT&T and an anonymous donor, we have provided support for K-12 teachers to attend The Gilder Lehrman Institute symposium, a week-long professional development opportunity focused on Lincoln’s intellectual, moral, psychological, and political evolution. Another example is teacher “boot camps” supported by Motorola. These “camps” provided Chicago Public School teachers with training sessions designed to deepen their knowledge of Lincoln's life and legacy for use in their lesson plans. With Horace Mann, we were able to support five-day teacher institutes for educators and administrators from all 50 states over a multi-year period.

“This experience tremendously aided my understanding of Lincoln and how he evolved in many areas - as a politician, in terms of race, and as a human being.”

2021 GLI Teacher Institute Participant

Gettysburg Replies

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address in 2013, the Foundation invited people of note around the world to write “272 Words” in the spirit of our 16th President. We received essays from all five living U.S. presidents at the time: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton; George H. W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. Other notable essayists include: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, General Colin Powell, the Commander and Crew of USS Abraham Lincoln, Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond, Director Steven Spielberg, AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall L. Stephenson, Caterpillar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman, Photographer Annie Leibovitz, and Scholar Harold Holzer among hundreds of others. Essays were on display for several months and guests were lined up to read them. U.S. Presidents, jurists, scholars, school children, sailors—people from all walks of life participated.

The project was such a resounding success that Lyons Press published a collection of the 272-word essays in the book, “Gettysburg Replies.” This compilation raised funds that benefited our mission including collections, programs and projects.

Civil War Tech

To support student and teacher exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) used during the Civil War in a hands-on, education setting, we partnered with AT&T. The project provided onsite and offsite student and teacher programs for grades 4-8. Through hands-on activities and experiments, presentations from scholars and field experts, games, and artifacts students and teachers were given the tools and time to think critically about the impact and legacy of Civil War technology on our nation. The four most popular programs—Ironclads, Railroads, Submarines, and Telegraphs—were offered as in-school programs for middle schools.

Visual and Performing Arts

Thanks to generous donors, the Foundation has supported a range of artists and performance art projects over the years, including the following examples.

No Malice Film Contest

For the No Malice Film Contest, the Foundation and its partners created a platform for Illinois youth and young adults, ages 11-21, to explore the topic of racial healing through film making. As part of the statewide Healing Illinois initiative, we invited Illinois youth and young adults, ages 11-21, to create a 3 to 7-minute film addressing the topic of racial healing. We then provided teacher honorariums to educators for developing companion curriculum to be used with the winning films in classrooms. The contest was offered through a partnership between the Foundation, the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The program was funded by a grant from Healing Illinois, a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust. Winners were recognized at a red-carpet event generously hosted by our friends at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2021.

“Racial healing begins with an acknowledgement of the problem and a willingness to work hand-in-hand toward a solution.”

Chaz Ebert, President, The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation

Living History

In partnership with the Dr. Scholl Foundation, we have provided living history educational programs that feature actors portraying influential people and events connected to Lincoln’s life and times. Historical figures spotlighted have included Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Kate Warne, and Elizabeth Keckley.

The Heavens are Hung in Black

Thanks to CHASE and the Susan Cook House Educational Trust, we sponsored several theatrical productions, including The Heavens are Hung in Black. James Still’s play, set in 1862 and with the Civil War raging, focuses on Lincoln preparing to write what will become the Emancipation Proclamation. One theater-goer wrote in 2013:

“For me, it made Lincoln human instead of a legend.”

One Destiny

With support from CHASE, we sponsored presentations of One Destiny, a popular one-act, two-man play centered on the night of Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre.

Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

The Illinois Arts Council has helped us support a variety of theatrical and musical programs over the years, including Chris Vallillo’s Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement, which featured the Springfield Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Choir. The musical performance provided audiences with an artistic interpretation of America’s struggle with racism, as well as the pursuit of civil rights.

Accessibility and Inclusion

The Foundation is committed to improving accessibility and inclusion in humanities and arts programming.

Autism Awareness and Accommodations

To make learning about Lincoln's life and times more inclusive and enjoyable for individuals with Autism, we partnered with The Hope Institute for Children and Families​ with support from the Judith G. Stephens Chairpersons Fund at the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln to provide sensory accommodations. In addition, with generous support from CVS and the Dr. Scholl Foundation, students from the Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) participated in the Lincoln Time Travelers program. TAP students experienced multisensory, interactive educational exhibits with their parents and siblings while learning more about Lincoln’s life and times. Community members and visitors were afforded the opportunity to speak with the Autism Program of Illinois about services and support for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Additionally, free autism screenings were offered for children and youth ages 1 ½ to 17.

Content Creation and Digital History

A cornerstone of the Foundation’s work has been to improve and enhance access to evidence of the past, including through digitization projects, original documentaries, primary source galleries, and more.

Fortifying our Democracy: Lincoln’s Lyceum Address

“Fortifying Our Democracy” is an original three-part documentary series enhanced by companion curriculum and expert webinars. This series and related content delve into the greatest threats to American democracy as articulated by Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 address to the Young Men’s Lyceum in which he described why trust in political institutions falters and how to restore it. Produced in 2023 by Lincoln Presidential Foundation with generous support from Iron Mountain.

Warning Signs: Lincoln’s Response to Rising Tensions in the 1850s

“Warning Signs” is an original four-part documentary series with companion curriculum and public programming that features vivid storytelling about the intense and occasionally violent political struggles of pre-Civil War America and how it impacts our lives today. Produced in 2022 by Lincoln Presidential Foundation with generous support from Iron Mountain. Winner of 4 awards including an Emmy Mid-America.

Papers of Abraham Lincoln

From 2017-2022, the Foundation raised $600,000 to help digitize and publish over 9,000 documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime as part of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln (PAL) project. The PAL project historically involved various entities, including the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Abraham Lincoln Association, the University of Illinois Springfield, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The Foundation was asked to join the project at a critical juncture to provide stabilizing grant management and to raise required matching funds. The Foundation did so successfully with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and individual contributions and grants to the Foundation.