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Reopening a historic home in a “new normal”

Posted at 6:02 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 18:40:31-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — If you're looking for something educational and to step back in time, a museum is a great way to learn history.

On Thursday July 2, Mary Todd Lincoln House is opening its doors for the first time in 2020.

The museum was set to open for the year back in March, but the coronavirus and restrictions meant a delayed welcoming for its visitors.

Since the virus spread and the reality of reopening in a "new normal" set in, Gwen Thompson, the museum's executive director, and her team has worked to find ways to share a part of Lexington history while maintaining safety.

"But for the most part, we still have all of our important artifacts on display. But we have secured them in things like cases and added security alarms to our artwork," said Thompson.

That's because the tours are self-guided to prevent crowding in certain rooms. But she says docents will be standing close-by.

"There's a lot more room for us to have conversations and talk, and for you to tell me, 'Hey I'd like to learn more about this particular thing,' and we can let you kind of direct your experience with that," said Thompson.

There are some other new additions inside the museum. There's newly acquired silver in the dining room, fresh carpet on the stairs, and since it is 2020, there's plenty of hand sanitizer and social distancing sign reminders.

Exploring the Mary Todd Lincoln House goes beyond the years she spent at the home.

"Her life story allows us to tell other stories, so it's not just her stories that are being told," said Thompson.

Thompson says the museum focuses on several themes. They include family background, the tragedy she experienced in personal life, and her White House years. While she was the First Lady, the Civil War was raging, which not only tore apart the country but tore apart the Todd family. Some sided with the Confederacy while her husband was president of the Union.

The Todd family in Lexington held enslaved people at their home. As you follow the tour, there are cards explaining the role of enslaved people living inside the home, and Thompson says the museum works to make sure their perspective is shared.

"The racism that was necessary to allow that, for individuals to enslave people and for societies to allow that, was deeply rooted. And it does have a legacy through the ages into the present. And it is important to understand our history so that we can also understand our present and our future," said Thompson.

As the museum reopens, there will be a limited number of people allowed inside at a time and the schedule is different. For more information on booking appointments, and learning more about the history of Mary Todd Lincoln and her family, you can follow this link.

If you take a tour, you’re also asked to come prepared with a mask.

There are also lots of other tours you can take around Lexington for an inexpensive and socially distant way to experience the city’s history.