By: Matthew Hunter
A couple of weeks ago, on Thursday, November 3, 2016, former U.S. Congressman Paul Findley listened intently to Illinois College President Barbara Farley’s dedication speech on the newly-unveiled wayside exhibit on the western side of Whipple Hall. Illinois College’s Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibit, is one of many that can be found throughout Central Illinois.
The Lincoln Wayside Exhibit outside Whipple Hall was originally created nearly a year ago when Congressman Findley began working with the executive director of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, Sarah Watson, to make the exhibit become a reality. Congressman Findley also received a big help from Dr. Jenny Barker-Devine, an associate professor of history at Illinois College, who is also a member of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition. She helped in researching Mr. Findley’s career and his contributions to the preservation of Lincoln’s memories.
The reason behind Congressman Findley’s mission to preserve Lincoln’s memories is because he felt inspired by our former President while he was representing Illinois’ 20th District. He wrote a book, A. Lincoln: The Crucible of Congress, detailing Lincoln’s short tenure as an Illinois Congressman, and it is held in high regard by many Lincoln scholars today. The Congressman even represented the same district as Lincoln had when he was a representative in the late 1840s. During his time as Congressman, he purchased an 1840s-era sofa that was specially handcrafted for Lincoln during his law practice and displayed it in his congressional office in D.C. The sofa currently sits in the Paul Findley Congressional Museum in Whipple Hall.
The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition was created in part by Congressman Findley, who introduced a bill in 1971 to create the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a partner organization with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, both of whom cooperate in a number of ventures meant to preserve the history and legacy of Lincoln. Aside from creating the LHNHS, Findley’s bill also transferred oversight to the U.S. National Park Service, and secured nearly $6 million to preserve Lincoln’s home. Congressman Findley watched in early 1971 when President Richard Nixon officially signed the bill into effect.
The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition is a not-for-profit organization that brings together local communities and historic sites in order to preserve the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The wayside exhibits serve as creative gateways for the community so that Lincoln history can be learned in a fun and interesting way. There are currently more than two-hundred wayside exhibits in over fifty Illinois communities, with several of these exhibits being right here in Jacksonville. Many of these small wayside exhibits can be found on the sides of highways or along sidewalks throughout central Illinois.
To learn more about the Looking for Lincoln exhibit, feel free to check out the exhibit on the west side of Whipple Hall. You can also visit the Paul Findley Congressional Museum in Whipple Hall or visit the IC Archives in the basement of Schewe Library. Also, you can contact via email Dr. Barker-Devine or our archivist Samantha Sauer.