WASHINGTON–Ford’s Theatre celebrated the opening of its newly built Center for Education and Leadership with a ribbon cutting on Feb. 8.
The new building, across the street from the existing Ford’s Theatre and Museum, will teach visitors about the legacy of the nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. It will open officially on February 21.
This is the third major renovation to Ford’s Theatre since it’s reopening in 1968. The renovations and the construction of the new center were funded in part by a $60 million campaign, which collected $53 million in donations from corporations, families and other groups.
“This museum and learning space brings the ideas and values of Lincoln from the past into the present,” said Paul Tetreault, director of the Ford’s Theatre Society. “Since we’ve opened to the public in 1968, Ford’s Theatre has welcomed more than 30 million visitors from around the country and around the world. These visitors hope to connect with the legendary man that was Abraham Lincoln.”
The theatre teamed up with presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, the National Park Service and Split Rock Studio, a St. Paul, Minn., exhibit design company to update the historic site.
The 6000 square-foot Education and Leadership Center features artifacts from the National Park Service that have never been on display. Two floors feature stationary exhibits, while one will feature rotating exhibits and space for galleries, lectures and receptions.
A focal point of the new center is a 34-foot, three-story sculpture erected in the form of a flame-retardant, bent aluminum book tower, full of titles about the former president’s life and legacy. Images were printed directly onto the metal book jackets and inner pages.
“We worked with several publishers and authors to secure permissions and rights to use the images and artwork,” said Travis Wood, an exhibit designer with Split Rock Studio.
Once all the books were on site, the sculpture took about two weeks to put together. Wood said that each book was placed individually, leaving space for Ford’s Theatre to add extra titles in the future.
According to Wood and Tetreault, publishers are already requesting to have their titles featured on the book tower.