The Lincoln Memorial continues its makeover

A new visitor center will be added to the memorial to honor the historical significance of the memorial

Ariana Taborga, Staff Writer

The Lincoln Memorial began construction in March to expand the monument with an educational exhibit. D.C. college students said they are excited to see the new addition once it is completed.

The exhibit, which includes 15,000 square feet of floor space, will become the new visitor center, where visitors will be able to find information about the history of the memorial, according to a statement released by the National Park Service, or NPS. Visitors will also be able to view the underside of the memorial in a gallery.

Marisa Arnaj, a sophomore student at George Washington University, said she frequently visits the memorials on the National Mall and takes pictures in front of them with her friends. 

“I think the new space will be more inviting to visitors that travel from all over the world,” Arnaj said. “Right now, people take pictures of just Lincoln sitting in his chair, but not many know the importance of the memorial itself.”

The new visitor center will include information on the construction history of the site and highlight the memorial’s importance to national Civil Rights demonstrations, according to the NPS statement. Multimedia presentations and wall panels will be added to the foreground and will describe notable speeches that were delivered on the memorial’s steps.

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows will allow visitors to view the underside of the memorial known as the “undercroft,” and an immersive theater presentation will project images of historic events onto the foundations, according to the NPS statement. The project is expected to be completed by 2026, before the 250th Anniversary of American Independence.

Mike Litterst, the Chief of Communications for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said that this construction will not be affecting tourism even though the construction timeline and peak summer tourism season will be concurrent.

“Talk surrounding this new addition has been in the works for some time now,” Litterst said. “This isn’t the first project done on the National Mall. We are accustomed to the building during the busy visitation season.”

Tourism rates will likely not be affected since the memorial remains open and accessible to the public during construction, Litterst said. There are temporary establishments set up including restrooms, a bookstore and a handicapped-accessible lift for visitors to use until construction is completed. 

David Rubenstein, a billionaire philanthropist, contributed $18.5 million in 2016 to commence the project, according to the NPS statement. The project has become a venture of almost $69 million, bolstered by further funding from the National Park Foundation and other benefactors.

Although the memorial is still open during construction, Claire Amala, a visitor of the memorial and junior at Georgetown University, said she was concerned about the timeline and cost of the construction.

 “I think it’ll be cool for visitors to learn about the history of the memorial, but there is another way to show the significance rather than spending a long time and a lot of money on adding the new space,” Amala said. “This new exhibit is very unnecessary and seems like a lot of money to be spent on something that’s not gonna bring in any more visitors or tourists every year.”

Some students, like Erica Rooke, said the education benefits outweigh the potential downsides. Rooke, a junior at Georgetown University, said she is excited about the new addition and views it as an educational opportunity for visitors. 

“This will be a great opportunity for young people and families to learn about the history of the memorial,” Rooke said. “Not many people know the historical significance of the memorial and I feel like there is nothing interactive besides looking at the monument and looking at the inscriptions. There is a lot more to be learned.”