Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2008 Issue

Lincoln Museum To Close -- Now What Happens To Its Huge Collection?

The museum from the Lincoln Museum website.


By Michael Stillman

A museum hosting one of the largest collections of Lincoln material in the world will be closing its doors on June 30, leading to the question, what will become of its huge collection of Lincolnia? The institution is the Lincoln Museum of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and its collection is almost too vast to imagine. It includes 350 signed documents, 5,000 19th century photographs and 7,000 prints, 18,000 rare books and pamphlets, 200,000 newspaper and magazine clippings, 350 19th century sheet music titles, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, one of 13 copies of the Thirteenth Amendment signed by Lincoln, and 79 three dimensional items.

The museum is owned by the Lincoln Financial Foundation, the charitable arm of the Lincoln Financial Group of Philadelphia. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name of Lincoln National Corporation, a major insurance and financial services provider with $237 billion in assets under management at the end of last year. However, the association with the President whose name it bears goes back to the firm's beginnings, and this explains how a large Lincoln collection ended up in Fort Wayne. The firm was founded as an insurer in 1905 in Fort Wayne. According to the company's website, founder Arthur Hall sought, and received, permission from the President's only surviving son, Robert Lincoln, to use Abraham Lincoln's name. Hall would return the favor in 1928 when his now very successful business created the Foundation to collect and display Lincoln-related material in its hometown.

The decision to close the museum reflects declining attendance over the years. History museums struggle to draw younger visitors in the internet age, and its out-of-the-way location in terms of Lincoln associations could not have helped. With the decision to close now made, the obvious question is, what becomes of the collection? That remains up in the air, but the Foundation has some clear preferences, embodied in the Abraham Lincoln quote, "I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest number." In other words, if you are hoping to see this material come up at auction, be forewarned that the Foundation is seeking to find partner museums to keep the material accessible to the public

Asked whether the museum had ruled out the possibility of at least some of the material going to auction, Lincoln Financial Group's Annette Moser responded in writing, "No considerations have been eliminated at this time." However, this does not appear to be the Foundation's choice. She further explained the process by noting, "Through invitation, the Foundation will host a national informational event in April to explore solutions for the collection with potential public partners that have managing historic collections as their core business, demonstrate the ability and resources to properly care for items, and provide substantial visibility of the collection."

In an earlier news release, the Foundation announced it was proactively pursuing a solution that benefits historical education and scholarship and exposes the collection to the largest possible audience." Two specific plans it announced were seeking public partners to "explore exhibition options for its three-dimensional items," and digitizing the large quantity of documents "to make the entire collection more visible and accessible to a greater number of people." That does leave open the question of what will become of the thousands of less displayable documents, particularly once the material within them has been captured and put on permanent display through digitization. That, it would appear, will fulfill their requirement of making "the entire collection more visible and accessible to a greater number of people." Then, the Foundation will need to make a final determination as to what to do with the originals.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Closing Time, Advance Readers Copy of Uncorrected Proof with a letter from Heller on his personal stationary
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, N Y: Knopf, 2021; first edition, with a handwritten note from Bill Gates
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Catch-22, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961, first edition, first printing, first issue dust jacket, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Heller, Joseph, Something Happened, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, first edition, inscribed on the front end paper by Heller
    Bid on iGavelAuctions.com: Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, London: John Murray, 1818, in four volumes
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions