I used to work for a couple of decades for office products and self-adhesive labelstock giant Avery Dennison when I lived in the greater Cleveland area. One of their largest factories was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a town I frequented on many business trips to run trials there or to meet with paper suppliers. Fort Wayne is also the home of the Lincoln Life Insurance Company, which for many years has managed an excellent museum on the life of the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.
Recently, the insurance company announced plans to close the Lincoln Museum on June 30 and they are trying to give away the collection. It’s a great little museum and an outstanding collection of documents and artifacts, and, to me, it’s the passing of an era for Fort Wayne. The curators are trying to find a suitable institution or group that will exhibit the collection in a larger and better venue, hopefully in time for the Lincoln celebrations that are coming up in a couple of years.
Here’s the text of an article from this month’s issue of Civil War News.
The Lincoln Museum In Fort Wayne To Close And Give Away Collection
By Kathryn Jorgensen
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Lincoln Financial Foundation will determine how to donate its extensive Lincoln Museum collection by the end of the year. In the meantime, the Fort Wayne museum will close on June 30.
A foundation spokesman said more than 30 organizations attended an April meeting to discuss disposition of the collection. Those interested in receiving the collection will submit proposals by June 16. The foundation will chose those that will continue in the process by late July.
The $20 million 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.
The foundation intends to donate the collection “to one or more of the nation’s major nonprofit institutions specializing in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.”
The spokesman said the foundation wants the recipient(s) to have a program that “ensures significant and meaningful public access to the collection.” The recipient must have demonstrated strength in exhibitions, programming, research and financial resources.
In deciding to close the museum, the foundation aims to make the collection more visible and accessible for the upcoming Lincoln Bicentennial through exhibit at another institution and by digitizing documents.
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.
The museum’s roots go back to 1905 when Arthur Hall and other Fort Wayne businessmen founded The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company. According to company history, Hall admired Lincoln and asked Robert Todd Lincoln for a photograph the company might use on its letterhead.
Lincoln’s son gladly complied and sent “what I regard as a very good photograph of him.”
Hall repaid the Lincoln family in 1928 by creating 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. It now houses one of the largest collections dedicated to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Tens of thousands of people visited annually for exhibits, lectures and research.
The reading room will remain open for research through June 27. With the June 30 museum closing all programming, access to the Web site and online archives will cease.