Lincoln Presidential Museum a contender for Fort Wayne collection
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is a finalist for a $20 million collection of Abraham Lincoln materials being given away by the Lincoln Financial Foundation, owner of a Lincoln museum in Fort Wayne, Ind., that recently closed.
“It would be a very, very nice complement to our collection,” said Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum director Rick Beard. “It’s a rich collection.”
The Lincoln foundation, citing poor attendance, closed its 77-year-old museum in Fort Wayne last month and decided to give away its collection.
The Lincoln Financial Foundation sent out offers earlier this year to dozens of interested organizations. The collection includes hundreds of Lincoln and Lincoln-related manuscripts, an extensive 19th century photography collection, a few Lincoln artifacts and such documents as the U.S. Senate version of the 13th Amendment. Springfield has the House version. The collection also includes a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation that’s similar to the one Springfield owns.
“The photograph collection is really rich,” Beard said. “It particularly fills a hole in our collection. Photography is not an area of our strength.”
Receiving the collection would also reunite some artifacts. For example, Fort Wayne has Lincoln family photographs that were taken from the album the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum possesses.
To make the museum’s offer to receive the collection more alluring, it created a nationwide consortium of partners that would all share in loaning, interpreting and digitizing the collection. Partners include the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Lincoln College in Lincoln and the University of Illinois and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Other organizations affiliated with the consortium include Chicago’s McCormick Freedom Museum and two Philadelphia museums, the National Constitution Center and the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum.
“I think we’re in a very good position,” Beard said. “They could back up the truck tomorrow and we could begin cataloging it the next day. Not even the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian can do that. We’re Lincoln 24 hours, seven days a week.”
The value of the collection is roughly $20 million, based on newspaper reports. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library recently obtained the Louise Taper collection of more that 1,500 Lincoln-related artifacts. The Taper collection had been of the largest private Lincoln collections in the world and included, among other high-profile items, Lincoln’s top hat.
Beard said the Lincoln Financial Foundation has indicated it would like to choose a winning recipient by the end of the year and that the collection will be donated at no cost to the winner.
Other groups competing for the collection, based on newspaper reports, include a group of Indiana historical organizations and a Washington, D.C., consortium that includes the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Library of Congress.
The Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne has been operated by the Philadelphia-based Lincoln Financial Group’s nonprofit foundation.