The personal Lincoln

Treasures continue to surface as the Indiana State Museum collections management staff processes the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. One tiny object, a token from President Lincoln to a grieving widow during the height of the Civil War, illustrates the personal side of a president who has become an icon of American history.

This decorative bird picture features a wooden frame with a circular well in the center that is trimmed in copper; a nature motif is crafted within the well. A brown tree with green leaves is hand painted against a white background. Two birds with beaded eyes and painted beaks are constructed from blue, green and red feathers. One bird is perched on a tree branch hovering over a nest, while the other bird forages for food on the ground below the tree. A piece of convex glass covers the motif. A hanging ring is attached to the top. Newspaper backing is found on the reverse, as well as the number 30 carved into one corner.

A postcard dated June 14, 1963, from the donor reads: “Dear Sirs, I just had given to me a small picture, there were two looks hand made of a bird real feathers not in very good condition, but it was given to my friend’s mother by Pres. Lincoln. Her husband’s body was never found and Mr. Pres. entertained my friend and gave her these little gifts as a memo of her visit to him. It’s a shame to throw it away and anyone collecting Lincoln can have it for a collection piece …” [Editor’s note: The spelling and grammar are from the original postcard.]

Wow! It is the little finds like this that help make this collection so special!

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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Processing Lincoln

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

This ornate, double-sided, folding memorial fan was made for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1865 as a memorial for her husband, Abraham Lincoln.

After all of the artifacts from the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne arrived at the Indiana State Museum at the beginning of June, museum employees began processing the collection. Each artifact in the Lincoln collection must be cataloged following museum standards in the Indiana State Museum database. Digital images are taken of each artifact that are then linked to the museum’s database. The current condition of each artifact is also accessed and any artifacts with urgent issues are immediately addressed. The final step in processing these artifacts before placing them into storage is physically numbering each artifact. Individual artifacts are assigned a unique accession number to track that piece in the database, to assist with the writing of the museum’s professional reports and to facilitate the development of related exhibitions. With several thousand artifacts to catalog, that is a huge project to complete.

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Abraham Lincoln at the Indiana State Musum

Nearly a year ago the Lincoln Financial Foundation started looking for a good home for its collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts and documents. That collection just happened to be the world’s largest private collection of memorabilia from the beloved president’s personal and presidential life. This amazing collection of more than 20,000 items includes signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, Lincoln’s wallet, family photos and the chair he sat in for some of his most famous photographs – just to name a few!

At the Indiana State Museum, we are super excited that the Lincoln Financial Foundation chose us (and the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne) to be the guardians of these national treasures!

1864 Campaign Button

1864 Campaign Button

For those who may not know … Abraham Lincoln moved with his family to what is now Spencer County, Indiana, when he was just 7 years old. The Lincoln’s lived in Indiana for 14 years – until young Abe was 21 – and then moved to Illinos, where he eventually became a lawyer, member of the Illinois state legislature, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and, finally, America’s 16th president.

Lincoln’s 200th birthday will be on Feb. 12, 2009! In an extended celebration of his birthday, the Indiana State Museum will debut a Library of Congress exhibition of rare Lincoln artifacts, including our new acquisitions, in 2010.