If you could, would you travel back in time to learn about the past? Imagine returning to the days of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. You could follow the rise of the famous Illinois politician to the presidency, where he kept our country from breaking apart during the Civil War and fought for the freedom of all people, black and white. You would not need a history book to tell you what was happening – you could find out for yourself by attending one of his campaign debates or speeches as president. You could see actual battles, visit hospitals, or talk to soldiers. It might take time and expense, but you could see history for yourself.

If you were more interested in transportation during this time in history than in politics, you would only have to look around at the horses, carriages, trains, canal barges, ships, and other conveyances of the time to gain understanding. The same would be true if you wanted to know about clothing,farming, the newspaper business, or many other subjects.

Unfortunately, time travel is not yet possible. Museums, however, can give us a good idea of what life was like at other places and times, as well as delighting our senses and enriching our understanding of many subjects. This is because museums house objects and artifact – real things that we can observe, inspect, study, and enjoy.

The objects inside museums may be connected with famous people such as Abraham Lincoln or made by exceptional artists such as Vincent Van Gogh. Or they may be natural specimens such as bones, beetles, or fossils. They may also be simple, ordinary things such as tools, forks and spoons, or quilts that show what everyday life was like for most people. All of these things offer unique ways to learn about life in our nation and our world.