Lincoln Memorial Undercroft Museum
The Undercroft, while displaying no actual artifacts or documents, utilizes historical narrative juxtaposed with contemporary first-person voices to illuminate conflicting ideas of democracy, race, emancipation, and union. The architectural concept establishes a new physical layer that supports exhibition programming while upholding the existing building structure to the highest level of historic preservation. The project scope includes all aspects of the museum from the initial welcome, to capturing visitor feedback.
Sleek, contemporary forms float in contrast with rough, board-formed concrete piers—a dance between new and old. Modern and minimalist bronze railings and hardware surround the bold structure while an open metal grill ceiling conceals projectors, AV equipment, and lighting. The design adheres to ABA accessibility and Universal Design principles throughout, incorporating induction loops and numerous tactile exhibits for the visually impaired.
Inspired by the rhetorical sparsity of the Gettysburg Address, the exhibition narrative emphasizes choice words and images for the greatest impact. Through full-height transparent glass and tiered seating, visitors face into the Undercroft’s void where suspended layered, transparent scrims serve as large projection surfaces containing archival footage paired with abstract imagery and text. When lit from behind, the scrims disappear, allowing the raw Undercroft space to reveal itself dramatically. This is the climax of the exhibition, where the hidden power of the foundations is linked to the breadth and weight of the memorial’s legacy.