In The News

Old Capitol to be site of documentary video

This article originally appeared in the State Journal Register.

By John Reynolds

Visitors to the Old Capitol State Historic Site over the next few months might run into a film crew  shooting a high-definition documentary on the historic building.

The video, being produced by the University of Illinois Springfield’s Office of Electronic Media, will span the 173-year history of the Old Capitol. Abraham Lincoln’s connection to the building will be highlighted, but the documentary will also include events not connected to the 16th president.

“I like to call it a tour with history lessons. We are going to do a tour of the entire building,” said Jerry Burkhart, director of the electronic media office. “We hope the documentary will encourage people to come, but if they’ve never had the opportunity to visit, they will be able to watch the video and get a feel for what the place looks like.”

As the documentary moves from room to room, it will highlight some of the events that occurred in each. In Representatives Hall, for instance, the documentary probably will talk about Lincoln’s 1858 “House Divided” speech.

Other topics will include the reconstruction of the building in the 1960s and the launch of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign on the steps of the Old Capitol.

The inclusion of the contemporary events will show that the building’s story is continually evolving.

“It’s a vibrant building,” Burkhart said. “We want to show that juxtaposition of the time of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War to an African-American standing in front of the building announcing his candidacy for president is quite a contrast.”

The $20,000 cost of the production is being covered by grants, including a $5,000 award from the Illinois Humanities Council.

Burkhart said producers are trying to obtain additional grants to cover the cost of a guide that could be used by classroom teachers.

Having the 55-minute documentary finished by spring is the plan.

“We want to put a DVD in every school and library,” Burkhart said.

There are also plans to create an 8- to 12-minute version that could be shown to visitors at the Old State Capitol.

Justin Blandford, site manager for the Old Capitol, said the documentary will make the site more accessible to people across the state.

“This will be a very interesting video done in a high-quality manner,” Blandford said. “It will really encourage a lot of people to add the site to their itinerary.”

John Reynolds can be reached at 788-1524.