Bob Rogers, president of BRC
Imagination Arts, the firm that designed the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Museum, negotiated a $3,600-a-day
pay rate for his work on the project, according to
records obtained by The State Journal-Register through
the Freedom of Information Act.
The Illinois Capital Development Board records
indicate that BRC was paid a total of $56.7 million
since 2000, the first year of its contract.
Roughly half of that money went to pay for BRC's own
expenses, Rogers said. The other half went to more than
30 specialized vendors with whom the Burbank,
Calif.-based company subcontracted.
CDB, the state's construction agency, paid the
museum's bills with a combination of state, federal and
city of Springfield funding.
Although CDB's records of BRC's expenses stack about
8 inches high in large three-ring binders, BRC's own
work expenses are not documented. BRC's contract did not
require the company to account for its costs or for
payments made to vendors whose charges totaled less than
Financially, Rogers said BRC "did OK," but added that
his firm had plenty of expenses
"American Airlines, TWA - a bloody fortune," Rogers
said. "Five and a half years of travel and meals and
apartments. Huge payrolls."
As for Roger's $3,600 rate, he said by the time final
negotiations were settled, the original figures that
were agreed upon were irrelevant.
"I can't relate (that rate) to anything CDB paid,"
Rogers said. "There's no one-to-one rate."
CDB's documents offer an in-depth look into the huge
costs and detailed work associated with the museum.
Of BRC's contractors, Autofilm Historical Association
received the largest payment - nearly $12 million. The
association, a BRC sub-
sidiary, hired all the union actors and voice talent
BRC used for the museum's media and paid for such things
as camera rentals, production equipment and stage
construction for the museum's videos.
Rogers said it's common for firms in his industry to
use such subsidiaries to hire members of entertainment
guilds. Once a firm becomes a guild member, such as with
the Screen Actors Guild, it is obligated to use only
"We don't want to have every actor we ever use have
to be a SAG (member)," Rogers said.
Another vendor was Murphysboro-based Brees Studio,
which BRC paid roughly $600,000 to create the lifelike
trees, plants and murals that surround the museum's
display of Lincoln's boyhood home.
The studio, led by owner Gary Brees (he listed his
title as "Big Cheeze" in his BRC contract), made casts
of real Illinois trees and decorated the scenery with
models of native mushrooms and plants, including snake
root. Scholars suspect Lincoln's mother died of snake
root poisoning, after drinking milk from the family cow
that might have munched on some.
Brees also had to make sure some trees fit perfectly
around the building's steel support columns.
BRC paid roughly $320,000 to LifeFormations, a
Bowling Green, Ohio-based firm, to make the dozens of
life-like historical figures placed throughout the
museum. The most expensive was the slave father, which
cost $14,383. Spare hands for the Lincoln family group
that stands in the museum plaza cost $667 a pair.
Much of the elaborate work required modifications and
fixes. A memo from LifeFormations about an Abe figure
indicates something was wrong with its head.
"Replace the previously approved head in order to fix
the color problem," the note reads. The fix cost $2,222.
An original set of Mary's arms was made too small.
LifeFormations charged $1,500 to enlarge them.
Technifex, a California-based special-effects
company, was paid $91,330 to make the seats shake in the
Union Theater. It took a few dollars more - about
$96,000 - to put together the "cannons" that fire smoke
rings out into the audience. In the Ghosts of the
Library show, the feather pen that appears to fly out of
its inkwell and write the Gettysburg Address is a
All payments are based on a February accounting
report, the latest available from CDB. Rogers, who
referred to the report as a "snapshot" in time, said
most vendors have been paid in full.
The documents also contain anecdotal information
about the design and creation process. An old script for
the museum's 1860 campaign commercials, which NBC's Tim
Russert anchors as if they are a part of a contemporary
presidential race, is called the "Koppel Version." While
many lines of script for various screenplays used
throughout the museum include references to historical
source material, some memos call for taking "liberty
with many newspaper quotes" and adding material to make
Lincoln opponents "more obnoxious."
Rogers stands by all of his company's work.
"If you read between the lines, this is not
off-the-shelf stuff," Rogers said from his office in
Burbank. "We were required to be 'world class' and
'state of the art.' You can't do things (like this) in
ordinary ways. You do things in ordinary ways, you'll
get ordinary results."
Rogers said BRC's contract with CDB was not arrived
"It was a little more than (the state) wanted and a
little less than what we wanted. We would liked to have
seen more (money)," Rogers said.
"In the end, we mutually agreed on what had to
happen. And it turned out fine. The results speak for
Since opening in mid-April, the museum received its
100,000th visitor early last week. More than 400,000
people are expected to visit the museum the first year.
Pete Sherman can be contacted at 788-1539 or