The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has developed a special portfolio version of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, One Life: The Mask of Lincoln. The exhibition, which commemorates the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, opened at the National Portrait Gallery in 2009.

Drawn from the Portrait Gallery’s unrivaled collection of Lincoln portraits, it charts Lincoln’s passage from a fresh-faced Illinois congressman to a troubled visage as he led the fight for the Union, culminating in his grizzled isolation as president. The exhibition shows how Lincoln used the new art of photography to convey his image to Americans, letting them see in him what they most desired. David Ward, historian, is the exhibition curator.

This portfolio version of The Mask of Lincoln gives students in classrooms across the country unprecedented access to the many faces of Lincoln. These portraits invite the viewer to examine closely the complex and mysterious man who came from nothing and was nationally unknown almost to the moment of his nomination for the presidency. Shaping himself to the uncertainties of the present, mindful of his role as the heir to the Founders, it was Lincoln’s ability that led the nation where it never intended to go: from a political crisis over states’ rights to the revolutionary act of abolishing slavery.

Geared to middle-school and high-school students and teachers of history and American Studies, the portfolio sets will provide a long-lasting and visually attractive complement to libraries and classrooms.

Download your copy of the portfolio
>> Low-resolution files for printing on 8 1/2 x 11" pieces of paper
>> High-resolution professional, print-quality files for larger, poster printing

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The Mask of Lincoln portfolio was developed by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. This portfolio was made possible by a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.


Educational Resources

From the National Museum of American History (NMAH) | Grades 5-12

An Extraordinary Life: What made Abraham Lincoln “extraordinary”? Students will develop small research projects about Lincoln’s personal qualities. They will then support their ideas with Lincoln quotes, artifacts related to his life, and scholarly research. Finally, they will create and share an electronic presentation showcasing what they’ve learned.

>>Download NMAH lesson plans


From the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) | Grades 4-12, U.S. History classes

Lincoln and Photography: A Closer Look
Lincoln in Richmond
The Life Masks of Lincoln
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
Whitman and Lincoln

>>Download National Portrait Gallery lesson plans


From the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies | Grades 4-12

Abraham Lincoln: The Face of a War
In the first lesson, students take a close look at Lincoln the man, as seen in two photographs, taken in 1860 and 1865, and in two plaster “life masks,” made in the same years. This exercise in portrait analysis leads to a study of events in the years between—years that changed Lincoln drastically—and might serve as an introduction to a unit on the Civil War.

In the second lesson, students examine an eyewitness drawing of Lincoln’s arrival in the enemy capital of Richmond, Virginia, at the end of the war. As he moved among former slaves, Lincoln the person became freedom’s personification. Never before had an appearance by a president—the mere showing of his face—meant more to his audience.

>>Download Smithsonian lesson plans

Exhibition specifications

Contents 10 historic portrait images, historic images, Lincoln quotes, and compelling text from the National Portrait Gallery exhibition One Life: The Mask of Lincoln.
Participation Fee Free
Category American History & Culture
SITES Contacts Stephanie McCoy-Johnson

Related publications

Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
by Harry R. Rubenstein, $12.95

For the first time, the Smithsonian is publishing its unparalleled Lincoln collection. Its many historical treasures include: Lincoln's top hat, his gold pocket watch from his days as a Springfield lawyer, the inkstand he used to draft the Emancipation Proclamation, his patent model for lifting boats, one of Mary Lincoln's White House gowns and jewelry, and prison hoods and shackles worn by the Lincoln conspirators. With more than 125 color photographs, Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life tells a new and intimate story of the life and legacy of this remarkable American icon.  2009; Paperback; PP: 112; Full-color photos throughout.

>> Order

Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life book jacket

Press release

May 11, 2009

Smithsonian Shares Lincoln Portraits with Educators across the Nation through Portfolio Set and Online Resources

Media only:           Jennifer Schommer (202) 633-3121
Media Web site:

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Portrait Gallery have partnered to share the scholarship and collections of the exhibition “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” with thousands of educators across the country through an educational portfolio. Designed for middle-school and high-school students and their history and American studies’ teachers, the portfolios present 10 iconic portraits—each one a 13-by-19-inch mini-poster—incorporating interpretive text. The portraits show the changing face that President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12, 1809-April 15, 1865) presented to the world as he began his presidency and led the fight to preserve the union during the Civil War.

Five thousand portfolio sets will be distributed for free to schools, libraries and museums in early May through the American Library Association, Federation of State Humanities Councils, Smithsonian Affiliations and the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. The portfolio, as well as additional educational resources, is also available for free download on the SITES Web site at

Lincoln was the first President to serve after photography truly came of age. He embraced the new technology to craft his image and keep himself in the eye of his fellow citizens. The portfolio includes the “tousled hair” portrait taken in 1857 that was used in early campaign materials and a Mathew Brady photograph taken just before Lincoln’s groundbreaking 1860 speech at the Cooper Union. The latter image is known as the “photograph that made Lincoln president.”

“The Mask of Lincoln” portfolio was made possible by a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. The exhibition, “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., through July 5. Visit online at

SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at


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Mask of Lincoln at NPG

Educational Resources

3-D Mask of Lincoln

Lincoln at SI

Mobile Lincoln Museum

Portfolio Specs

Sample Portfolio Page

Portfolio on Pinterest





> "Lincoln" across Smithsonian

Abraham and Tad Lincoln. Search the collections from the National Portrait Gallery. After Lincoln’s assassination, the War Department preserved his hat and other material left at Ford’s Theatre. Search collections of the National Museum of American History.
Abraham Lincoln Note, 1861. Search collections from the National Air and Space Museum. Postal museum stamps featuring Lincoln. Search collections of the National Postal Museum.
Carving of Lincoln's portrait at Mt. Rushmore. Search Archives of American Art's collections on Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln's carriage, 1924. Search collections of Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
Lincoln's pocketwatch. Search Lincoln-related articles in Smithsonian magazine. Lincoln stamp. Search Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies Lincoln web conference.


If you like this exhibition, you might also like:

Earth from Space Posters

Choosing to Participate Poster Set

Digital Lincoln Portfolio Set



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