July’s featured Small Museum of the Month is President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C. The stated mission of President Lincoln’s Cottage is twofold: to reveal the true Abraham Lincoln, and to continue the fight for freedom that he and others waged. To accomplish this, the Cottage provides a unique combination of exhibits and programming that tie Abraham Lincoln’s legacy to modern advocacy.
During the Civil War, the Cottage served as a summer retreat for the Lincoln family that was located on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home outside of downtown Washington, D.C. At the Cottage, Lincoln visited wounded soldiers, spent time with self-emancipated individuals, and reflected on the complex issues of the War. It was also the place where Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation. This establishes the Cottage’s legacy of freedom that it seeks to continue today.
One aspect of this continuation is the exhibits that the Cottage displays. Permanent exhibits study Lincoln and his family, the Soldiers’ Home, and the Civil War in Washington, D.C. An additional award-winning exhibit gallery, “Lincoln’s Toughest Decisions,” features digital primary sources. The Cottage also houses temporary exhibit space, where “American by Belief” is currently on display. The exhibit examines Lincoln’s immigration policies and brings them into dialogue with immigration today.
In addition to exhibits, the Cottage’s programming demonstrates a lasting commitment to linking the site’s legacy of freedom to modern day advocacy. One of the organization’s central programs is Students Opposing Slavery (SOS), a youth education program that brings students together to combat human trafficking in their own communities. The cornerstone of SOS is an annual, week-long international summit that brings dozens of teenagers together to provide training and resources that empower its attendees to continue the fight for freedom. In 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry presented SOS with the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House.
President Lincoln’s Cottage is an organization that brings the past together with the present in a dynamic and meaningful way. Through exhibits that engage with contemporary issues and projects like SOS, President Lincoln’s Cottage strives to continue the legacy of freedom that finds it roots in the site’s historical significance.