Killing Lincoln: a National Geographic two-hour documentary – Fact or Fiction?

February 20, 2013:

by Barry Cauchon

KILLING LINCOLN was aired for the first time on February 17, 2013 on the National Geographic channel. Earlier this summer, several members of the Lincoln Assassination research community were contacted and asked to assist with research for the project. Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers), the producer/writer for the documentary was very interested in getting the story as accurate as possible.

I spoke with Erik a couple of times during his research and filled him in on my area of expertise which is the incarceration and punishments of the Lincoln Conspirators. My research and writing partner John Elliott also had several conversations with him on the same subjects. During the vetting process we were asked to proof read the script and comment on areas where the facts were not always firm…which we did.  All went well and about eight months later, if you watched the documentary, you saw the end result.

Since the documentary aired, we have been asked how authentic the content was. Was it accurately depicted? Generally speaking, it was really good. One can always point out where the director might have taken artistic licence to move the story along or where he was forced to cut out an important part due to broadcast time restraints, but all in all, it was a fair represenation of the accepted storyline.

Right now, I’m sure some of you are probably asking yourself why my answer isn’t a direct yes or no response. Was the documentary accurate or was it not? The truth is that the answer is not straightforward. Much of history is not as factual as one would like. Most can be attributed to assumptions, half truths and more often than not, some good guesses. Incorrect versions of historical events printed long ago have been repeated so often that they eventually become accepted history. In our area of research, John and I have uncovered many accepted ‘facts’ that are at best, plausible theories. There are usually not enough facts to justify these accounts as being 100% true. And in a couple of cases, we have discovered evidence of pure fraud that became accepted fact which ending up in all the history books as ‘the real deal’. Sadly, they are bogus.

It is extremely difficult to ‘unteach’ an accepted point of view, especially when it has been repeated and accepted for so long.

Another reason why history isn’t always a solid ‘fact or fiction’ decision is because many historians and researchers can’t agree on what the actual truth is, often resulting in even more confusion as different theories are toted and sold as the ‘one and only’ truth.

When a huge two-hour documentary like Killing Lincoln appears on National Geographic, people sit up and listen. National Geographic carries a lot of clout. When I was involved with the King Tut exhibit several years ago, NatGeo was a partner in the project. Their name goes a long way.

As a researcher who was asked to comment on some of the content for Killing Lincoln , I hoped the ‘truth’ (as I saw it) would be presented. In some cases, it was. In other cases, the opinions of others won out. And sometimes, when the gap between historical versions was too far apart to trust, the production seemed to resort to presenting their own carefully considered interpretations.

So in the end, was the story accurate? In two words…..basically, yes. It was based on years of collective research from some of the most knowledgeable people in the business. It may not have been the whole truth, but Killing Lincoln gave the viewer a great starting point to begin doing their own research in hopes of finding the missing pieces.

I’m proud to have been asked to do my small part for the production and I hope that my input helped in some way. As a reward, National Geographic posted my name under ‘Special Thanks’ in the end credits. I didn’t ask for this so it meant a lot. It is my first National Geographic documentary creditation. Let’s hope that it is not my last. LOL.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

KING TUT TOURS ON THE MOVE AGAIN

June 17, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Hi all: In 2004-2005, I was the Sr. Project Manager for the current King Tut exhibit (which I affectionately call Tut 1). And although I am no longer working on that project, I do keep up with the folks involved and see how things are going from time to time. So I thought I’d give you an update on what is happening. The two King Tut tours are on the move once again.

Tut 1 called Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs will open on June 27, 2009 in San Francisco at the de Young Museum. The exhibit  is currently scheduled to run until March 28, 2010.  The city is abuzz with excitement about having the exhibit back in town. The de Young Museum was one of seven museums in the United States that hosted the original King Tut exhibit back in the 1970s. 

king-tut-bust

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs first opened in Basel, Switzerland in 2004, followed by a run in Bonn, Germany. The tour was then taken over by a group from the United States (Arts and Exhibitions International, AEG Live and the National Geographic Society) and opened its first show n Los Angeles in June, 2005. The following cities have hosted the exhibit:

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • London, England
  • Dallas, TX
  • and now is headed to San Francisco

Tut 2 called Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohswill open on June 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Childrens’ Museum of Indianapolis. It is currently scheduled to run until October 25, 2009. From there, the tour will continue to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and run from November 24, 2009 to April 18, 2010.

JE-60689_250

This tour began in Vienna, Austria at the Volkerkunde Museum Vienna and was on display from March 9, 2008 to September 28, 2008. It was exhibited under the name Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs. After that, the show traveled to the United States and now is named Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. The exhibit has, or will visit the following cities:

  • Vienna, Austria (ended)
  • Atlanta, GA (ended)
  • Indianapolis, IN (opening June 27, 2009)
  • Toronto, ON, Canada (opening November 24, 2009).

Both Tut 1 and Tut 2 each have over 130 objects from a variety of Egyptian sites including 50 of which come from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

What these exhibits ARE NOT displaying

Two of the biggest misconceptions about these two exhibits are that the following artifacts are included and on display:

  • King Tut’s mummy
  • Golden Mask

This is absolutely not the case. Regrettably, neither of these artifacts are included in the current tours. In fact, Tutankhamun’s mummy has never even left its tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt since its discovery in 1922. And although thousands of people visit the tomb annually, the mummy was never on public display there until November of 2007. It was then that King Tut’s mummy was put in a special climate-controlled display case inside the tomb where visitors are now able to view it.

Picture 475

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) stands over the mummy of Tutankhamun now on display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt.

The Golden Mask is also not on tour with these two exhibits. It remains on display at The Egyptian Museum in Cairo. However the mask was part of the original exhibit Treasures of Tutankhamun that toured in the 1970s. Many people remember that blockbuster exhibit because of the Golden Mask and they assumed that it would tour again with these new shows. Unfortunately the Egyptian government stated that it would never again allow the mask to leave Egypt as it is considered a national treasure and must remain safely in Egypt.

The icon often used in the current advertisements for these new exhibits confused many people because it looks like the Golden Mask but in fact is a “golden canopic coffinette”. The coffinettes (4 in total) were used to hold one of Tutankhamun’s internal organs after the embalming process was completed. They are amazing in detail to see in person. They have similar features to the Golden Mask but are tiny in comparison. The head and shoulders of the Golden Mask is 54cm high (21-1/4″)  while the height of an entire canopic coffinette only measures 39cm high (15-3/8″). Each exhibit has one of these coffinettes on display.

Golden Mask

King Tut's Golden Mask is not on tour and remains in The Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Canopic coffinette. Each touring exhibit features one of these wonderfully intricate artifacts which are only 15-3/8" tall.

Canopic coffinette. Each touring exhibit features one of these wonderfully intricate artifacts which are only 15-3/8" tall.

To buy tickets to the exhibits, go to www.kingtut.org.

Best
Barry