KHS artifact featured in Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’

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A pocket watch that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln, now in the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) collections, is featured in Steven Spielberg’s newest film. Lincoln opens nationwide Friday, Nov. 16.

KHS was contacted in May by Ben Burtt, an Academy Award-winning sound designer working on the film. The sound team was dedicated to incorporating as many historically accurate sounds as possible that Lincoln would have actually heard in his lifetime – including the ticking of his pocket watch.

KHS Director of Museum Collections and Exhibitions Trevor Jones was reluctant to participate at first.

“Although I very much wanted to help, I was initially skeptical. Lincoln’s watch is an iconic artifact at KHS and is irreplaceable,” Jones said. “I was concerned that winding it could cause damage and I wasn’t going to risk a signature artifact.”

Closer examination by staff and experts determined that the watch is still in perfect mechanical working order. This summer, a sound technician visited Frankfort to record the ticking of the pocket watch at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.

The watch and a recording of its ticking are now on display in KHS’s signature exhibition, “A Kentucky Journey,” through Saturday, Dec. 8.

For more images and information, read Jones’ personal experience on the KHS blog, visit the KHS Objects Catalog at or visit KHS on Facebook.

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