Installing Lincoln

Installing a museum exhibit is pretty easy, right? Just throw the artifacts in some boxes, transport them to their galleries and hang ’em up or set them out in display cases. NOT! Months, sometimes even years, of planning come before installation begins.

We are now down to a few short weeks of installation madness before both Lincoln exhibits, With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition and With Charity for All: The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, open at the Indiana State Museum on Feb. 12. Both exhibits are being installed simultaneously, adding to the growing anxieties and craziness. Work began last week with the museum’s exhibits department painting gallery walls and getting wall graphics installed. The Library of Congress cases and the new With Charity for All exhibit cases were lined up and installed in their appointed places within each gallery earlier this week. The time has arrived to start installing the artifacts.

Installing two separate exhibits at the same time is quite an undertaking, but one Indiana State Museum staff has completed many times prior to the Lincoln exhibits. However, installing two separate shows, one loaned and one created in-house, is a different challenge. And when you consider that many of the items in the exhibits are national treasures … well, let’s just say that stress levels are high.

We began installing artifacts from the Lincoln Financial Foundation collection on Monday. These artifacts are part of the first exhibit created by the Indiana State Museum since the State of Indiana acquired the collection from Lincoln Financial. Staff from the Library of Congress arrive next week to begin installation of the artifacts for With Malice Toward None. All artifacts from the Library of Congress exhibit must be uncrated, unwrapped, condition reported and then installed into the correct exhibit case. It will be a crazy few weeks at the museum for staff involved in the installation, but well worth our efforts once both exhibits open to the public.


The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection was given to the State of Indiana in December 2008 by the Lincoln Financial Foundation. The Indiana State Museum is home to the historic objects and art while most of the books, documents and photographs reside at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.

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Researching & Writing Lincoln

Written by Dale Ogden, chief curator of cultural history at the Indiana State Museum

With the portion of the spectacular Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection that is to be housed at Indiana State Museum (finally) home, we’ve dramatically shifted gears. After being consumed by the effort to acquire the collection for 16 months, we can now dive into the artifacts and get our hands dirty … metaphorically, of course. Yes Jane/Cindy, I wear my white gloves, religiously. I am not a Philistine.

Thousands of prints, engravings, framed artworks, sheet music, sculpture and 3-D artifacts have been unpacked and temporarily re-stored. Jeana, Meredith and others in Collections Management have been cataloging items for the February exhibition and Conservation has been looking for condition issues. I am, however, the one who gets to have all the fun.

We have about half the time I’d like to have to put the exhibit together, so I’m writing furiously. I enjoy writing, so it’s not a chore, but exhibit labels have their own challenges. Unlike a book, or even an article, you don’t have the luxury of wandering. Limited to 25 to 200 word snippets, you’re pretty much restricted to “Just The Facts, Ma’am.” It’s still fun, though. So far, I’m up to about 6,500 words worth of snippets.

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