TERRE HAUTE —
While elected U.S. president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln spent much of his early life growing up in Indiana. Now, the Indiana State Museum through July 25 is displaying what had been the largest privately owned collection of Lincoln memorabilia.
“What is special about this exhibit, as compared to a lot of other Lincoln exhibits that focus on Lincoln the politician, Lincoln the military leader or Lincoln the statesman, is this collection uniquely allows us to tell the story about Lincoln the family man,” Indiana State Museum Foundation executive director Ron Newlin told members of the Terre Haute Rotary Club on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn in Terre Haute.
Lincoln’s family moved to Indiana from Kentucky in 1816, when young Abraham Lincoln was 7, and he lived in Spencer County until 1830.
Newlin showed a photograph of an engraved pocketknife that had belonged to Lincoln, plus a photograph of the original family photographs in frames of sons Willie and Tad that sat on his office desk in the White House. The knife and photo frames can be seen at the exhibit at the museum in Indianapolis.
Another original photograph is also at the museum, one of Lincoln with his youngest son, Tad.
“This photo was probably taken in the studio of Alexander Gardner. We are sure the chair was in the studio of Alexander Gardner. We have this chair or one of Gardner’s chairs in the collection,” Newlin said after his presentation.
“Photography was new then. For all the talk about honest Abe and being homespun, he was really a savvy politician. He kind of grabbed onto photography the same way that a couple of recent politicians have grabbed onto Internet fundraising, as a real way to connect with people that hasn’t been there before,” Newlin said.
The first major exhibition from the collection called “With Charity for All: The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection” is on display at the Indiana State Museum through July 25. After that, a major exhibition will only be displayed “every two or three years,” Newlin said. However, an interactive online exhibit will be launched in December, Newlin added.
The Indiana State Museum received the Lincoln collection in December 2008 from the Lincoln Financial Foundation. The collection had been the largest privately owned Lincoln collection, valued at $20 million.
“It was a private corporate museum that Lincoln Life Insurance had built to sort of reinforce their brand image,” Newlin said. “They could have sold it, but to their credit, they gave it to whoever would share it with the most people.”
The collection includes more than 18,000 books and pamphlets, about 350 documents signed by Lincoln, plus letters, diaries, photographs and artwork, plus three-dimensional artifacts such as an inkwell Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation and a desk set from Lincoln’s Springfield law office that included an inkwell, pen holder and blotter.
The collection of letters, books and documents are now at the Allen County Public Library, where they will be digitized to make the contents available over the Internet, Newlin said. The Indiana State Museum houses all three-dimensional artifacts such as art, campaign textiles and selected documents such as rare signed copies of the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Tickets for the exhibit at the Indiana State Museum are $7 for adults, $6.50 seniors and $4 for children. Admission is free for museum members. For more information, call (317) 232-1637 or visit www.indianamuseum.org.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org