In March, Lincoln Financial Group, which owns the collection managed by its charitable arm, the Lincoln Foundation, announced the company would no longer own or manage a museum, and the entire collection would be offered to a group that could give it greater exposure and support it financially.
The museum, at 200 E. Berry St., closed June 30 after 80 years in Fort Wayne, where Lincoln Financial was based until it moved to Philadelphia in 1998.
According to a report published Sunday in the Tinley Park, Ill., Southtown Star, the Illinois partners include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield; the Chicago History Museum; the McCormick Freedom Museum in Chicago; the Lincoln Home National Historic Site; Lincoln College in Lincoln; and the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana-Champaign.
Also included in the coalition are the National Constitution Center and the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum, both based in Philadelphia. The third finalist has not yet been notified, Lincoln Financial Group spokeswoman Annette Moser said Tuesday.
One of the likely contenders is a Washington, D.C., group that includes the Library of Congress, Ford's Theatre, the National Museum of American History and President Lincoln's Cottage.
A week ago, Lincoln Financial Group officials said they would not reveal the three finalists or discuss proposals until the final choice is made sometime in January.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield opened in 2005. In April of that year, President Bush spoke at the dedication of the museum, describing it as “a superb collection, a superb resource for scholars,” calling Springfield the “place (Lincoln) called home.”
Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809 and lived in Indiana from the time he was 7 until his family moved to Illinois in 1830.
The difference in mission and locations among the partners in both the Indiana and Illinois coalitions indicates the written documents are likely to be separated from the rest of the collection.
Members of the Indiana group, however, have hinted that some items could be part of a traveling exhibit.
Rick Beard, director of the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, told the Southtown Star that the Springfield museum is “in a very good position” to assume ownership. “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.”
Despite the competition, the Indiana group remains hopeful the collection will remain in-state. Ian Rolland, former president and CEO of Lincoln National Corp. in Fort Wayne, formerly the parent company to Lincoln Financial, told The News-Sentinel earlier this month: “I think we can compete with any of them. I don't care who they are. Our proposal is really strong.”
Arthur F. Hall, an original founder of Lincoln National Insurance in Fort Wayne in 1905, began collecting Lincoln memorabilia and documents here. Among the 79 key items in the collection are a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and one of 13 original copies of the 13th Amendment, both signed by Lincoln, as well as his rocking chair and cane.