Lincoln Museum Collection
Goes To State Museum & County Library In Indiana

By Kathryn Jorgensen
(September 2009 Civil War News)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The $20 million Lincoln Museum collection of Fort Wayne was removed from the museum in July for its new homes at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

The collection includes more than 18,000 books and pamphlets, 7,000 prints, 5,000 photographs, 350 documents signed by Abraham Lincoln, one of 13 copies of the Thirteenth Amendment signed by Lincoln, 79 three-dimensional objects and thousands of newspaper clippings and Lincoln-related items

Last year the Lincoln Financial Foundation, which operated the Fort Wayne museum, announced its intention to donate the collection as well as close the museum, which it did June 30, 2008.

More than 30 organizations attended an April 2008 meeting to discuss disposition of the collection. Those interested in receiving the collection submitted proposals. The Smithsonian Institution and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum were among the applicants.

The foundation sought a recipient(s) that would ensure “significant and meaningful public access to the collection” and have demonstrated strength in exhibitions, programming, research and financial resources.

Its choice was announced in mid-December: an Indiana consortium led by the Indiana State Museum that includes the Allen County Public Library, the Indiana State Historical Society, the Indiana State Library and Archives, and a reconstituted Friends of The Lincoln Museum Board.

Under the consortium plan the three-dimensional collection items would remain intact at the Indiana State Museum. The documents will be digitized and made accessible via the Web through the Allen County Public Library.

The next six months was spent getting the collection ready to be moved.

Dale Ogden, chief curator of cultural history of the Indiana State Museum, says it took a long time for the Lincoln Financial Foundation to inventory and pack the collection. It had never been cataloged to museum standards, which involve describing, measuring and documenting each of 30,000 items, not counting a couple hundred thousand archival materials such as photos and magazine and newspaper clipping files.

The state museum and library took possession of the collection in July and now face “a huge amount of processing on this end in terms of unpacking,” says Ogden.

One reason the archival materials are staying in Fort Wayne is because Allen County Public Library has what Ogden describes as “one of the country’s largest genealogical resources and a lot of experience with scanning documents and making them available.”

The objects that were moved to the state museum include Lincoln’s cane and shawl, a chair from Alexander Gardner’s photography studio, sheet music and fine art.

Ogden says the “gems” from this part of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection are the copy of the Emancipation Proclamation that President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward signed for a Sanitary Commission fundraiser and a Senate copy of the 13th Amendment that Lincoln and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin signed.

The amendment banned slavery and Lincoln had signed about 13 copies of it when the Senate objected that he had no authority to sign Congressional legislation that had not yet been approved by the states, according to Ogden.

While a few pieces from the collection have been shown, Ogden says the museum is not trying to hurry and is preparing a major exhibit to open Feb. 12. The 3,500-square-foot exhibit will run for four months. During the first two months a Library of Congress exhibit about Lincoln will be shown in another gallery. Special events will be scheduled.

The museum has put a couple of hundred records and objects on its Web site and is adding to that resource while the library is scanning and cataloging their materials.

The state museum is committed to use the collection and not put it in storage says Ogden. It will create a permanent Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection Gallery and host a Lincoln exhibit at least once every three years, not counting traveling exhibits.

The Lincoln Museum’s roots go back to 1905 when Arthur Hall and other Fort Wayne businessmen founded The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company. In 1928 Hall created the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation, dedicated to Lincoln’s life and legacy. Collection of Lincoln material began that year and The Lincoln Museum opened in 1931 in the insurance company’s basement. A new museum was built in 1995.

The Lincoln Financial Foundation is the charitable giving arm of Lincoln Financial Group, the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and headquartered near Philadelphia.

For information about the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection at the Indiana State Museum go to www.in.gov/ism