By Frank Milligan
From July 3-5 I had the pleasure of participating in a unique conference held at St.Catherine’s College in Oxford, England. “The Global Lincoln” was organized by Lincoln scholar Professor Richard Carwardine, the Rhodes Professor of American History at the University of Oxford. Carwardine is no stranger to President Lincoln’s Cottage, having spoken here a few years ago. Based on the enthusiasm he demonstrated for the Cottage at this conference it is clear that has not forgotten experience here. The purpose of the conference was to explore Lincoln’s international legacy by including case studies of Lincoln’s legacy in the British Isles, Africa, India, East Asia, Latin America, Europe, and of course the United States. Some of the presenters such as Douglas Wilson, David Blight, Harold Holzer and Queen’s University, Belfast scholar Catherine Clinton, are no strangers to the Cottage. In fact Dr. Clinton rushed directly from England to the Cottage to help lead one of our teacher educational workshops. The American scholars joined an impressive group of international scholars to present stories on how Lincoln spoke – and continues to speak – to peoples across the world. In addition to Lincoln scholars and interested followers, dozens of elementary and high school history teachers from across America attended thanks to funding from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. These teachers added a freshness and energy to the gathering, and based on the number of business cards I gave out to teachers I feel confident that we will see many of these teachers and their students at the Cottage in the years ahead.
I was particularly honored to deliver my paper – “Presenting Race and Emancipation to the Public at President Lincoln’s Cottage” – at the wonderful Rothermere American Institute on the St. Catherine’s Campus. There was much interest in learning more about how we present the complicated and evolving story of mid-19th century race and emancipation to our visitors. Fortunately the field of ‘Public History’ found in museums and historic sites, is more frequently included in these scholarly gatherings. Members of the academy are increasingly intrigued with our work in presenting Lincoln stories at historic sites and museums across the world.