‘History Speaks’ exhibit opening in Fort Wayne explores Abraham Lincoln’s life through items that tell a story

Allen County Public Library staff members Emily Rapoza, left, Alayne Johnson, on ladder, and Stacey Stamas, back, hang a portrait of Abraham Lincoln as they install the new exhibit "History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection," which opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown Allen County Public Library. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This enlarged image is one of the items in the new exhibit "History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection," which opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown Allen County Public Library. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
An enlarged version of the Mary Todd Lincoln "spirit photo," which purportedly shows the ghost of Abraham Lincoln standing behind his wife in her portrait, will be displayed as part of the "History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection" exhibit, which opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown Allen County Public Library. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This enlarged version of an Abraham Lincoln political campaign newspaper is one of the images in the new exhibit "History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection," which opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown Allen County Public Library. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
"Mourning" editions of newspapers, which were published just after President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, are among the items in the exhibit "History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection," which opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown Allen County Public Library. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

When choosing items for a new exhibit on Abraham Lincoln, Allen County Public Library staff used two simple selection criteria: Is it cool? Is there a story associated with it?

That latter factor resulted in the second part of the exhibit’s title, “History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection,” said Stephanny Smith, library system community engagement manager.

The exhibit opens Monday in the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery on the main floor of the downtown library, 900 Library Plaza. It will be there through Sept. 2.

The gallery is open during main library hours; admission is free.

To create the exhibit, library staff chose 76 pieces from the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, which is housed at the downtown library, Smith said. The library then had those photos, documents and newspapers enlarged and printed on foam core board for gallery display.

Each item will be displayed with a small card telling its story.

Highlights include:

• The Mary Todd Lincoln “spirit photo,” which purports to show the ghost of Abraham Lincoln standing behind his wife when she sat for a portrait several years after his 1865 assassination.

• “Mourning” editions of newspapers, which were printed with a black border while providing coverage just after Lincoln’s death.

• Views of both sides of a Vicksburg, Miss., newspaper that had been printed on the back of wallpaper. The city had been under siege by Union troops and was running out of most supplies – including paper – but residents vowed to continue publishing the city’s newspaper, so this edition was printed on wallpaper, Smith said.

• Copies of letters by or related to Lincoln, including one in 1864 in which Lincoln asks Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to allow Indiana troops to go home in October of that year so they can vote in the Hoosier state’s Oct. 11 election. Lincoln said he didn’t want to take a chance on Civil War opponents winning state offices.

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection includes thousands of documents, photos, books, newspapers, magazines and similar materials that once were part of the collection at Lincoln Financial Group’s The Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne.

When the company decided to close the museum, a local group formed to try to keep the collection in Indiana. The company later agreed to donate the documents, photos and other archive material to the Allen County Public Library and the three-dimensional objects to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

The library wanted to organize the “History Speaks” exhibit to create more public awareness about the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Smith said. The Lincoln Museum closed in 2008, and many people think all of its items left Fort Wayne.

The exhibit also helps promote the efforts of the Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana, Smith said. The locally based nonprofit supports the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection and is working to open a permanent, interactive exhibit space in the main library to make items from the collection more accessible to people.

LINCOLN STORIES

WHAT: “History Speaks: Stories from the Lincoln Collection,” an exhibit of items from the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection that have been enlarged and presented in a gallery display.

WHEN: Monday through Sept. 2. Open during main library hours, which are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.

WHERE: Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery on the main floor of the downtown Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza

COST: Free.

LEARN MORE

For more about the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, click here.

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