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"Ghosts of the Library" - Immersive Theater

Page history last edited by kferre1@johnshopkins.edu 12 years, 3 months ago

Project Title:  Ghosts of the Library 

Museum/ Institution: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Springfield IL  

Program Created: Completed April 2005  

Media Category: Immersive Theater 

Program URL (if available):   http://www.presidentlincoln.org/museum/ghosts.html


Project Image(s) and/or Video



Media Source(s)/Credit(s):

Corley, C. (2005, April 1). Lincoln museum goes high-tech with history. NPR - morning edition.










Program Description: (150-250 words)

“Ghosts of the Library” is a high-tech immersive exhibition at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois. Opened in 2005, the museum challenged the traditional methods for engaging and interacting with the general public. The purpose for this exhibition was to explain to the audience what goes on in a presidential library. In “Ghosts of the Library” the public walks into a theater and is greeted by a live actor. This actor shares information about strategically placed artifacts within the space, and as he touches on topics (either visibly or vocally), ghostly holographic images appear out of smoke and help to explain and capture the public. For example, as the actor reads the famous Gettysburg Address, an image of Abraham Lincoln appears and finishes the reading.


Holavision is a BRC-owned technology that enhances a live stage performance with enchanting visual effects. BRC Imagination Arts is one of the few, believed to be the only, museum design or theme park design firm in the world that can offer clients the magic of a Holavision Special Effects Theater. Holavision can make images, animated characters and objects magically float within the theater, as the live storyteller appears to interact with them and control them. This special effects theater also permits the staging of other mind-bending illusions. For example, this process can make props – and even the actor on stage – dissolve slowly into thin air.

Holavision was invented by Bob Rogers, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of BRC. It was first used in 1986 at the World Expo in Vancouver, Canada for “Spirit Lodge,” a show sponsored by General Motors that created lines over two hours long. There are currently only three venues in the world which boast a Holavision theater.



Firsthand or secondary review/critique: (150-250 words) 

I have been dying to see this exhibit for years! My family has gone to see it, but it is just far enough away from my hometown that I haven’t made the journey on my short trips home. Having opened in 2005, it is still mesmerizing audiences six years later; the museum is considered a Best of Illinois 2011.


The original design was very controversial for the times as traditional professionals in the field were worried that the concept the museum was following was too Disneyfied. In reality, it was very forward-thinking, and has definitely paid off. "What we're trying to do is take the casual visitor, engage him and draw him into the story — and inspire him to want to know more and make it easy for him to do just that," Richard Norton Smith, Executive Director when the museum opened, in an USA Today interview on April 14, 2005. This is what all museums are now striving to match. The holavision techniques used in "Ghosts of the Library" specifically were very dramatic. It challenges the audiences' imaginations to really think about the subject, and truly brings history to life.


It is hard for me to think of a critical critique for this exhibition. Visually it is inspiring and very successful. The main and most obvious issues that I can point out are the immense cost and maintenance of such a project. The museum cost $90 million to complete, and there are not many museums which can match this technological investment. On top of this, I assume that the museum must contact the company with concerns for any changes, alterations, or issues with technology that may arise. Also, being only one of three museums with this type of technology, visitors will not be familiar with the programs they are faced with. They may be overpowered with the technology and not recall any of the objects on display at the museum, though in this specific instance, I believe the goal to be that they understand more about Abe Lincoln. There will also be an issue down the road with the upgrade and maintenance of the technology itself when it becomes dated or incompatible with current software. If and when the museum needs to introduce an upgrade to the system, it is going to be very costly and time consuming.


Technologies incorporated:

 BRC Imagination Arts, Holavision Theater, audio system, and special effects lighting 


Internally or externally produced:

Holavision was invented by Bob Rogers, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of BRC

These programs are produced externally by the company.


Entry Contributor and Date: 

Nikkie Ferre, March 14, 2012


Related projects:  

“Animation Celebration”, at Universal Studios Japan and Knott’s Berry Farm, which features BRC’s “Mystery Lodge”

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