With the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Museum expecting its 300,000th visitor on
Friday, exactly four months after opening, Bob Rogers
should be pretty happy.
He is and he isn't.
Rogers, head of BRC Imagination Arts, the firm that
designed the high-tech museum, says he's elated by the
museum's popularity, which he said is exceeding even his
If there's one thing he'd go back and change, it's
the small space for people waiting to enter. On busy
days, museum visitors have lined up the entire length of
the museum block on Sixth Street from Jefferson to
Rogers is a target of the Illinois Capital
Development Board's efforts to recoup about $15 million
from museum contractors, news the Chicago Tribune
revealed Sunday. Rogers' firm, according to the CDB, the
state's construction agency, is responsible for up to
$10 million in excess costs.
Rogers and state officials acknowledge that their
lawyers are discussing the terms of BRC's $56.7 million
contract, nearly half of which was paid to
A few years ago, when it looked as if the
presidential library and museum project would be
finished long after deadline, CDB officials said they
decided they would take another look at the costs when
time permitted. The agency has budgeted about $500,000
to look into spending on the project.
Asked whether it's likely BRC will refund any money
to the state, Rogers rejected the possibility.
"Nah," he said. "We've performed."
Rogers did say he has some regrets about BRC's
"I would have liked to have spent more," he said.
The entire cost of the Lincoln complex, which
includes the museum, the Lincoln Presidential Library, a
parking garage and a future park and visitors center, is
estimated at $150 million. That compares favorably to
the roughly $165 million it cost to build the Clinton
Presidential Library and Museum, which opened last
November in Little Rock.
But clearly, BRC broke the mold, at least as far as
industry standards for average exhibit costs per square
foot of museum space.
The Lincoln museum includes roughly 40,000 square
feet of exhibit space. Divide BRC's $56.7 million by
that and BRC's work cost roughly $1,400 per square foot.
In 2002, a large museum planning to add interactive
galleries should have expected to pay about $550 per
square foot, according to an article in Exhibitionist,
the newsletter of the National Association for Museum
Exhibition. However, its authors said, "we can be
expecting to see thousand-dollar-per-foot exhibits in
the near future, if they haven't arrived already."
Susan Burdick, principal of the San Francisco-based
Burdick Group, which designed, among other places, the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, said
high-end museum design work still tends to run between
$500 and $700 per square foot. However, she said,
entertainment components can double, sometimes triple
Rogers' claim for Springfield's museum has been that
it merges "scholarship" with "showmanship."
Regardless, what the city got was a museum whose
cost, according to industry insiders, topped the scale.
"For normal museum work, it sounds to me like it was
on the higher side," Burdick said.
Of course, Rogers says the Lincoln museum can't be
compared to "normal" museums.
"Any comparison breaks down when you (look at) the
traditional," he said.
"We wanted to break out of the pattern and change the
definition (of museums). We did it. The Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Museum is much better than it had to be to
do something in Springfield."
As for CDB's attempt to get a refund, Burdick said
its chances aren't good.
"It's very hard to get your money back (in this
industry)," she said.
Pete Sherman can be contacted at 788-1539 or