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Lincoln Exhibit: Avon Library Will Be One of Only a Few Connecticut Stops

The Avon Free Public Library will host national traveling exhibit 'Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War' from Dec. 15 to Feb. 3, along with related programming and displays.

Avon is abuzz with Abraham Lincoln fever in anticipation of national traveling exhibit Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War opening at the Avon Free Public Library on Dec. 15.

There has been a lot of renewed national interest lately in our 16th president – in part because of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War last year and the release mid-November of Stephen Spielberg's Lincoln film. With all the excitement, library staff decided to go all out.

“We’re one of the only library stops in Connecticut this year," Tina Panik, the library's circulation and public services manager, said. "This is a unique thing for Avon to be offering."

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA and American Library Association Public Programs Office in Chicago, IL are behind the exhibit, which is "made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities," according to a press release from the Avon Historical Society.

About a year ago, the Avon Free Public Library was awarded with a grant it applied for that includes the Lincoln exhibit and $750 to fund related programming, lectures from scholars and publicity, Panik said.

“We’re very excited that we’re able to do this for our community," said Panik, who is collaborating with Avon Reference Librarian Patrice Celli on project planning. "We’ve found we have a great audience that loves this topic."

It will also draw in a new audience to the library, she said.

Panik said that the upcoming exhibit "demonstrates our commitment to adult programming, especially on the topic of history" – a passion for many people in the Avon community. Lincoln shaped American history and people are still talking about him today, she said.

"They (library patrons) are interested in him as a man and how he has handled the pressure politically and personally," Panik said.

Once the exhibit is shipped to the library, Avon Public Works Department employees will begin to help assemble the panels for the exhibit on Dec. 12  and set it up in the Community Room. Panik said that the panels feature text and images on three major themes – divided ("are we a single nation?"), bound ("can slavery be uprooted") and dissent ("must civil liberties give way?"), according to a flyer about the exhibit.

Panik and Celli will also put together an art gallery for the hallways leading to the exhibit that includes images and copies of documents from the time period and quotes. The gallery, Words and Images of the Civil War, will be on display starting Jan. 12.

Three major lectures, two dramatic events on Lincoln and several related films will compliment the exhibit. Avon resident Mary Good will be at the lectures to do sign language interpretation.

Academically, the exhibit's arrival coincides with the end of a Lincoln unit woven into Avon High School's curriculum. Opening the exhibit about a month after the release Spielberg's Lincoln movie is pure coincidence, but good timing.

“Not only do we have to thank Spielberg, we have to thank Avon schools for way their curriculums have fallen," Panik said of the heightened interest about Lincoln.

If teachers want to organize tours for their classes they can contact the library, Panik said.

Prior to the opening, the library is offering a Constitution 101 lecture on the U.S. Constitution at 7 p.m. in the library's community room on Dec. 4. The Consitution has been challenged a lot throughout history, so Panik said that "the "the idea of our rights, what’s protected and what’s not and how our American identity was formed" generates "a lot of interest."

The Avon Historical Society is partnering with the library on creating events to compliment the Lincoln exhibit, including developing a Lincoln and Connecticut display for the Marian Hunter History Room glass case.

Lincoln made many visits to Connecticut "before and after his elections," Avon Historical Society President Terri Wilson wrote in an email to Patch. A majority of Avon residents voted for Lincoln in the two elections he ran for office, according to a press release from the historical society. Lincoln and Connecticut will focus on that and other Connecticut ties like his speaking tours in the state, Connecticut Civil War regiments and his choice of a Connecticut man's Spencer rifle for the Union Army, the press release stated.

"He also made friends here," Wilson said. "Governor Buckingham was one of his closest allies. Lincoln also chose Gideon Welles of Glastonbury as his Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War which brought a lot of boat building to southeast CT."

History Room volunteers will also set up "displays surrounding the life of Lincoln, his family, their pets and a display of the White House dining room table of 1861" in the room, Wilson said.

Library staff members are enjoying "accomplishment" and "the recognition" in hosting the exhibit and earning the national award, Panik said. She and Celli like "connecting people to ideas" through their work at the library, she said. 

“We’re bringing all of the ideals behind libraries into actual fruition for this exhibit," Panik said.

There is no charge for people to see the Lincoln exhibit or attend any of the associated programs and events.

 Scheduled events:

  • Dec. 15, 1 p.m.: The opening of the Lincoln exhibit includes a lecture by Dr. Matthew Warshauer, of Central Connecticut State University, a guided tour with music and a wine and cheese reception hosted by the Friends of the Avon Library.
  • Dec. 18, 1:30 p.m.: A showing of PBS documentary The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • Dec. 20, 1 p.m.: Bill Mellow presents a program on “Hinks’ Mess” and the Civil War Union Cook
  • Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m.: A showing of the movie, Young Mr. Lincoln
  • Jan. 3, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of the movie, Shenandoah
  • Jan. 5, 2013, 1 p.m.: Dr. Paul Alan Cimbala, professor of history at Fordham University leads a lecture on emancipation
  • Jan. 8, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of  PBS documentary Underground Railroad: William Still Story
  • Jan. 12, 2013, 1pm: Stephanie Jackson will lead a one-hour dramatic event called, “They Call Me Lizzy: From Slavery to the White House.”
  • Jan. 15, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of PBS documentary The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry
  •  Jan. 17, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of the movie, Horse Soldiers
  • Jan. 26, 2013, 1 p.m.: The Honorable Douglas S. Lavine, a Connecticut appellate judge will lead a lecture on civil liberties during the Civil War.
  • Jan. 29, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of PBS documentary Death and the Civil War
  • Jan. 31, 2013, 1:30 pm: A showing of the movie, The Conspirator
  • Feb. 2, 2013, 1 p.m.: Carol Deleppo will perform a one-woman show “Meet Mary Todd Lincoln!“ The Avon Historical Society is co-sponsoring the event.
Terri Wilson November 28, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Thank you Jessie for a comprehensive story on the Lincoln events in Avon. We at the Avon HIstorical Society has been privleged to be part of all the 150th commemoriation events in town these past 2 years and look forward to more over th next 3 years. We encourage all residents to attend as many events as possible, even if you have family visiting this holiday season, bring them! This is a celebration of all that has made our country great - the good, the bad and the sometimes not wonderful. But we have made strides and will continue to evolve in to the best nation in the world. Knowing and understanding our history is what makes us move foward as best as we can in troubling times. We can learn a lot from Lincoln, his allies and the forsight they had for us. Thanks to everyone for making this possible. Terri Wilson, President Avon Historical Society
Jessie Sawyer November 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Thank you, Terri! I'm very excited to see the exhibit and perhaps some of the programs/films. Lincoln is a very interesting person, so it will be intriguing to see how the traveling exhibit portrays him and the time period. That's exciting that the Avon Free Public Library has the honor of being one of the only stops in the state for the exhibit. And what a better place to have it than the beautifully renovated library. What are people's questions about Lincoln? What are you most interested in learning about with the exhibit, displays, and events? Do you have Lincoln fever? Did you see the film, "Lincoln"? What were your thoughts on it? What is it that makes you interested in finding out more about Lincoln?

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