Not quite four score and seven years ago, I was an elementary school student, staring at a classroom map, gripped by the (mistaken) deduction that since Los Angeles was in the southern half of the country, Civil War battles must have clattered on the ground outside my home. While a teacher eventually helped me understand that California wasn’t in the Confederacy, the moment led me to understand the weight of history and that it has shaped the world into what it is today.

Today, on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, we’re helping make the past come a little bit more alive. Three new exhibits now available on the Google Cultural Institute focus on President Lincoln and the 272 words that shaped a nation’s understanding of its identity. Thanks to our friends at the White House, the Lincoln Library, Cornell University, Dickinson College and the Library of Congress, you can browse high-resolution digital versions of all five Lincoln-handwritten copies of the address. You can also:


Comparing two copies, side by side

You can also contribute your own version of the Gettysburg Address to Learn the Address, a project by documentarian Ken Burns, who has also been reaching schoolchildren across the U.S. with Google+ Connected Classrooms.

Most of us will never stand in the Lincoln Bedroom and see the handwritten draft exhibited there. But now anyone with access to an Internet connection can explore all these artifacts from this defining moment in history—perhaps a bit more accurately than when I gazed at that map.