Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Observant observer ALO one-ups me - maybe

In case you haven't discovered them, I'm joined in cyberspace by several other Lincoln buffs who blog. We all have a unique perspective on Lincoln and have covered a variety of different Lincoln-related topics during this bicentennial year. Each of us stays on the lookout for things we think the rest of you will enjoy and, interestingly enough, we don't often duplicate each other's efforts.

Sometimes, we pick on or tease one another - in private or online. We're pretty darned supportive of each other and aren't particularly competitive. Today, however, my buddy at The State Journal-Register, Mike Kienzler, who blogs as The Abraham Lincoln Observer (ALO), poked a little fun my way. He found a really bizarre story about an athlete who, believe it or not, had Abraham Lincoln tattooed on his neck. ALO shared it in his blog - with the challenge, "Ann Tracy Mueller, top this.

I didn't know we were having a competition. You be the judges. Here are the cards in our latest hand.
  • Lincoln Buff 2 (aka Ann Tracy Mueller): Knox College Lincoln Studies Center gets a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of darned near a million bucks, which will aid Lincoln studies and promote the Lincoln legacy for years to come
  • ALO (aka Mike Kienzler): Some overpaid jock spends his money inking his body up. It just so happens the image he chooses is Lincoln. This dude will be washed up in a few years and his body art long forgotten, but Lincoln scholars not yet born will use the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Herndon's Lincoln and other Lincoln Studies research.

I don't know, Mike. The tat is cool, but I think my hand trumps yours. Nice try.

Lincoln's gone digital in a big way

Want to know where to find Lincoln? Ask a Lincoln scholar.

Matthew Pinsker, the Brian Pohanka Chair of Civil War History at Dickinson College and author of the book "Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home," has been hard at work of late on a variety of digital Lincoln projects. He talks about them in his latest blog post.

Pinsker also recently contributed to a special Lincoln issue of the Journal of American History. You'll want to be sure to check out the section, "Building the Digital Lincoln," made possible thanks to a partnership between the Journal of American History and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College. This nifty article tells you everything you ever wanted to know about doing Lincoln research in the digital age.

As I told Dr. Pinsker when a friend first shared it with me, "WOW!" It's truly unbelievable how much Lincoln material is available right from the comfort of you computer. You'll want to save it as a favorite and go to it often. I know I will. Thanks JAH and Dr. Pinsker. Great stuff!
So that you can find Building the Digital Lincoln later, I've added a link in my Study Lincoln sidebar on the left side of this blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Endowment for the Humanities awards Lincoln Studies Center $850,000 grant

Do you hear it?

Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!

What is it? It’s the sound of Lincoln scholars around the world celebrating the largest educational grant awarded this year by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to an educational institution. And, it’s going to an entity on the Illinois prairie where the legacy of Abraham Lincoln is alive and well.

Digging into Lincoln
Since the founding of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in 1998, the center’s co-directors Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, have been working hard to make Abraham Lincoln primary source material more accessible to the masses. Yet, their collaborative work on Lincoln goes back at least a decade earlier, and their footsteps down the hallowed halls of Old Main tread back nearly four decades to the early 1960s.

Old Main at Knox College is remembered, even revered, as the place where, on Oct. 7, 1858, thousands of people gathered to hear one of the great debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.

Davis and Wilson, both Distinguished Service Professors Emeritus at Knox, first shared their love of history and literature with Knox students in the classrom. Yet, when they retired from teaching, their work didn’t stop. Instead, they dug in even deeper.

Their first major project under the auspices of the Lincoln Studies Center was the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, which includes more than 20,000 documents from Lincoln’s presidential years.

Even before that huge undertaking, the pair had sifted through the work of Lincoln’s law partner, Billy Herndon, to publish previously hard to find and nearly impossible to read documents in one volume, Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln. This 1997 University of Illinois Press publication is invaluable to Lincoln scholars.

Each of the two have done numerous other Lincoln- related works, many of which are award-winning. If you find a Lincoln scholar who tells you their work hasn’t been touched by the Lincoln Studies Center, I’d question the depth of their research.

“We the People” project

The Lincoln Studies grant is awarded through the NEH “We the People” program. “We the People” is designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles.
The grant does have one stipulation. Over the next five years, Knox must raise $2.5 million in matching funds.

According to an article on the Knox website, the funding “will establish a permanent endowment for the Lincoln Studies Center, providing long-term support of the directorship of the Center – intended as a position of distinction for a major scholar in Lincoln studies – and enabling program enhancements, including the addition of a new staff position and the dissemination of primary sources pertaining to Lincoln and Lincoln scholarship to scholars, students and the general public.”

Board includes leading Lincoln experts
The Lincoln Studies Center’s Board of Advisors is comprised of eight accomplished Lincoln scholars, who each serve four-year terms. If you study Lincoln at all, you’ll recognize many familiar names – people who’ve contributed much to the studies of our 16th president and continue to help keep the legacy alive - both on today's board and earlier ones as well.

The current board includes:
  • Michael Burlingame
  • William C. Harris
  • James M. McPherson
  • Edna Greene Medford
  • Matthew Pinsker
  • Gerald J. Prokopowicz
  • John R. Sellers
  • Ronald C. White, Jr.
Past board members include:
  • Gabor Boritt
  • Collum Davis
  • Jennifer Fleishner
  • William E. Gienapp
  • Allen C. Guelzo
  • Harold Holzer
  • Robert W. Johannsen
  • William Lee Miller
  • Lucas E. Morel
  • Philip S. Paludan
  • Mark E. Neely, Jr.
  • Thomas F. Schwartz
  • John Y. Simon
  • Kenneth J. Winkle
What you can do
If this is good news to you and if you’ve reaped the benefit of the Lincoln Studies Center’s work in doing your own research, you may want to say “thanks” with your own financial gift. Though $2.5 million is a huge number and it will take some large gifts to make it happen, every little bit helps – not only to match the grant, but to help Lincoln scholars for generations to come.

Even though my work on Lincoln is just beginning, I already see the value of the Lincoln Studies Center and the work they do there. I dropped my check in the mail yesterday. Won’t you join me in helping to meet the match?

The college plans a national fundraising effort, but if you’re like me and you want to say congratulations with your own gift now, here’s a link to the Knox Office of Advancement webpage, where you can find contact information. Just be sure you include a note to indicate you want your funds to go to the Lincoln Studies Center NEH match.

And, you can do two more things:
  • Next time you see Rodney Davis or Doug Wilson on the Lincoln circuit, say “Congratulations – and thanks for all you do!”
  • Drop a note to the NEH to thank them for their investment in this worthwhile cause and their bicentennial birthday gift to Lincoln.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The white dove sleeps in the sand

Mary Travers died yesterday. I’m sad. And, I think Abraham Lincoln would have been, too.

My Mary connection

The first time I remember hearing a song by Peter, Paul and Mary was in 1966. I was the oldest of five children riding home from school in a red wood-paneled 1963 Ford Country Squire station wagon, affectionately called Nellybelle.

In the car with us were my friend, Cindy, and her sister, Charlie. At my sister’s insistence, Charlie sang a song for the “little kids.” It was called “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Right there, that day, I was hooked on folk music and shortly thereafter on Peter, Paul and Mary.

Through my high school years, Peter, Paul and Mary’s songs were with me often – “Blowing in the Wind” as I learned to pick a few chords on a guitar, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” as I joined arms, swayed and sang with friends at hootenannies, and the album, “The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary: Ten Years Together,” as I went off to college.

In the dorm, I often placed that black vinyl disc on a revolving turntable when I was homesick for dear friends or longed for peace in the turbulence of the times.

As I grew older, had my own family and a van instead of Nellybelle, I listened to Mary’s smooth voice and powerful harmony on a cassette tape.

When CDs came out, one of the first ones I got was – you guessed it – another one of Peter, Paul and Mary.

In the late 80s or early 90s, the group “played Peoria.” Seats at the concert were first come, first serve, so my hubby and I got there plenty early. It paid off. We got within a few rows of the stage. No matter how many times you’ve heard or sung one of their songs, there was just nothing like being there, seeing them a few feet away, hearing them in person and joining in as they said “Sing along.” It truly was one of my most memorable evenings.

While Mary fought cancer these past few years, I prayed for her often. I really did want her to be healthy and happy, but being a little selfish, I guess also just wanted to hear her in concert one more time. I'm sure I was not alone. We'll miss her.

Mary’s Lincoln connection

The same year my parents bought that red wagon, the car in which I learned to drive, Peter, Paul and Mary sang at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. They were there again on the 40th anniversary of the speech in 2003.

Two lines from their civil rights anthem, “Blowing in the Wind” speak to me most strongly tonight.

I’ve often thought that if Mary Travers had lived in Lincoln’s time she would have been another Harriet Beecher Stowe. When I hear, “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” it’s as if I’m transported back to Lincoln’s day.

I listened to Peter, Paul and Mary YouTube videos and read their song lyrics tonight. I thought of our peace-loving Mary, our white dove, when I heard, “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”

You sailed for us all, Mary, and as you did you soared into our hearts. We love you. Sleep well, our friend.

To Peter, Paul - and Mary’s beloved family

Thank you, Ethan Robbins, for sharing your lovely wife with us all those years, and to you, Alicia, Erika and children for letting your mom and grandma sing us her songs.

To Ethan and family and to Mary’s dear friends, Peter Yarrow and Noel “Paul” Stookey, I know my heartache is nothing compared to yours. You’re all in my prayers.

Peter and Paul, your music will always define my past and remain with me in the future. Thank you and God bless.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watch Virtual Book signing tonight, Sept. 15

Looking for something fun to do this evening to celebrate Lincoln? You don't even need to leave the comfort of your computer monitor. Just tune in to Virtual Book Signing for a "Celebration of Abraham Lincoln and the Arts."

Yep, it's today, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009 at 5:30 p.m. Central Time.

Lincoln expert and Abraham Linocln Book Shop owner Daniel Weinberg and company will host guests from Chicagoland's Ravinia Festival. Though this is a private event, not open to the public like most book signing events, you're invited to watch the live webcast. Virtual Book Signing events are always entertaining, so you won't want to miss it.

The live panel discussion features artists commissioned by Ravinia commissioned to help North America’s oldest summer music festival celebrate the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial. They include composer Elbio Barilari, composer Lita Grier, composer Ramsey Lewis and choreographer Venetia Stifler. The panel is hosted by Ravinia’s President and CEO Welz Kauffman.

The event will feature some of the magnificent music produced for Ravinia during this Bicentennial commemoration of Lincoln's birth and also a video segment about Jazz legend Ramsey Lewis and his remarkable new composition. Live performances include the Lincoln Trio, soprano Michelle Areyzaga and pianist/speaker Welz Kauffman.

I had the opportunity to hear the Lincoln Trio at Bloomington's David Davis Mansion earlier this year, and their performance alond was a treat. Getting to hear all these artists in a discussion at once should be even more exciting. Hope you can watch it.

The live broadcast is sponsored by Ravinia Festival, Virtual Book Signing and Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Inc. Ravinia Festival gives special thanks to Kartemquin Films and WTTW Chicago.

Ravinia Festival has brought the finest in music and performance to the Chicagoland area since 1904.