Washington, D.C. -- The National Park Service has awarded a contract to add an immersive museum beneath the Lincoln Memorial and other upgrades to the visitor experience. Construction is expected to begin in March with completion targeted for 2026, in time for the 250th anniversary of American independence.
The nearly $69 million project will create 15,000 square feet of exhibit space that tells a more complete story of the Lincoln Memorial and provides a look at the structure’s foundations in a cavernous area known as the undercroft. New museum exhibits and multi-media presentations will highlight the construction history of the memorial and discuss how the Lincoln Memorial has become the nation’s foremost backdrop for civil rights demonstrations. The project also includes new restrooms, a larger bookstore, and a refurbished elevator to the chamber level of the memorial.
“The undercroft of the Lincoln Memorial, long hidden from public view, offers a fascinating setting to learn more about America’s 16th president and the memorial that honors him,” Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, said. “Thanks to the National Park Foundation and their generous donors, visitors will be able to view this dramatic architectural feature and learn about the how the memorial was built and how its meaning has evolved over the last century.”
The undercroft of the Lincoln Memorial is a tall grid of concrete columns surrounded by large expanses of open space. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls will provide a view of the undercroft, and an immersive theater presentation will project images of historic events onto the foundations. Visitors will also learn about the significance of the site as an international icon dedicated to the achievements of Abraham Lincoln, and individuals such as Marian Anderson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who have shaped the history of the memorial.
This public-private partnership project was first announced in 2016 with an $18.5 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. Including Rubenstein’s donation, to-date, the National Park Foundation has contributed more than $43 million to fund the project, with $38.5 million gifted from private donors, including the John L. Nau, III Foundation, Rick L. and Vicki L. Foundation, Citadel founder and CEO Kenneth C. Griffin, and Glenn W. Bailey Foundation. The National Park Service has invested more than $26 million toward the project.
“For more than a century, Lincoln Memorial has been the crucible of American democracy, an enduring platform for free speech, the site of civil protests that still shape society, and the scene of national celebrations,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Thanks to generous donors, the National Park Service will ensure the Lincoln Memorial continues to make history for another 100 years.”
“Improving the visitor experience at the Lincoln Memorial is vitally important to connecting Americans to the rich history of our country, the triumphs, the failures, and the lessons learned,” said David M. Rubenstein, financier and philanthropist.
Access to the memorial, including the steps and chamber with the statue of Abraham Lincoln, will remain open to the public during the construction. The basement area exhibits, restrooms and elevator will close this spring, however temporary restrooms, bookstore and a handicapped accessible lift will be available for the duration of the work.
About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation works to protect wildlife and park lands, preserve history and culture, educate, and engage youth, and connect people everywhere to the wonder of parks. We do it in collaboration with the National Park Service, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Learn more at nationalparks.org.
About the National Park Service
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at: www.nps.gov, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter: www.twitter.com/nationalparkservice, and YouTube: www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.