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Eric Bartheld
IU Bloomington Libraries

Last modified: Friday, February 6, 2009

Lincoln remembered in Lilly Library exhibition

Feb. 6, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Lilly Library at Indiana University will mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth by showcasing highlights from its vast collections of materials pertaining to the president.

As the most extensive exhibition of such items ever displayed at the library, "Remembering Lincoln" traces Lincoln's life from his Indiana boyhood through his celebrated presidency. The exhibition runs through May 9 and is free and open to the public.

The public is also invited to celebrate Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, at the Lilly Library from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Lincoln Exhibit

The portrait of Lincoln that hangs in the Lilly Library was the first painting to depict Lincoln with a beard.

Print-Quality Photo

Arranged in three parts, "Remembering Lincoln" features 140 items drawn from the Lilly Library's sizable Lincoln collections. In the Main Gallery are two groupings of materials -- one that places the emigrant Lincoln family within the context of Indiana from 1816 to 1830 and reveals Abraham's boyhood experiences. The second part focuses on the many ways that Americans have commemorated the man and his life. The third part, which is in the adjoining Lincoln Room, features materials that relate to the Lincoln presidency and assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln and their children, and Lincoln's lasting influence as leader and orator.

"Our Lincoln materials are truly remarkable," says Breon Mitchell, director of the Lilly Library. "This exhibition shows them off in a way they've never been displayed before. I can't think of a better opportunity for the community to discover the Lilly Library.

The exhibition contains art, books, documents, maps, music, medallions, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia. Among the highlights: a leaf from Lincoln's boyhood sum book, or journal, in which he practiced arithmetic; a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln; and items that commemorate the 1909 centennial celebrations of the president's birth.

Though Lincoln was born in Kentucky and elected to office in Illinois, he moved to Indiana with his family at age 7 and lived in the state until he was 21.

"There is a perception that the Hoosier years are the lost years," says curator Cinda May, "but people in Indiana have always embraced Lincoln's heritage. It's my feeling that we've just recently forgotten the many celebrations, published recollections and pageantries that have occurred in Indiana. This bicentennial prompts us to retrieve and rediscover Lincoln's importance to the state."

The exhibition also highlights items that reveal the Indiana frontier as Lincoln knew it. John James Audubon's magnificent Birds of America, and exquisite works on North American trees hand-colored in New Harmony, Ind., illustrate the natural history of the state's dense woodlands. Historic maps show the state's northward development. Indiana newspapers of the period reveal how Lincoln broadened his knowledge of the world.

"Young Lincoln experienced life and death, sorrow and joy within a community that placed a premium on independence, political and social equality, and cooperation," says May. "These experiences laid the foundation of character for the man whose ambition to better himself ultimately brought him to the White House."

Lincoln Cartoon

"The Assassination of President Lincoln, at Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C., April 14th, 1865." Lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1865.

Print-Quality Photo

Printed copies of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the Gettysburg Address and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses on display in the Lincoln Room draw attention to Lincoln's ability as an orator and wordsmith. Rare historic materials document the president's assassination, including a poster from the U.S. War Department reading: "$100,000 reward! The murder [sic] of our late beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, is still at large. . ."

The Lilly Library's holdings of materials relating to Lincoln's assassination and funeral are among the most extensive anywhere, in large measure because of the 1942 acquisition of Joseph B. Oakleaf's renowned collection. Oakleaf, a tireless and respected collector, assembled 8,000 books and pamphlets, photographs, etchings and works of art, in addition to more than 2,000 letters and documents pertaining to Lincoln. More than 100 were written or signed by Lincoln.

The Lilly Library has featured Lincoln prominently since its construction in 1960. The library's Lincoln Room honors the importance of the library's Lincoln-related collections and is furnished in the style of the Lincoln period. The room features a desk used in Lincoln's Springfield, Ill., law office and the wall covering duplicates that used in the Lincoln White House. Two Lincoln portraits hang in the gallery: one is the first painting to depict Lincoln with a beard; the other, the last portrait of Lincoln done from life. A bronze head of Lincoln is the work of Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of the faces on Mount Rushmore.

The Lilly Library is Indiana University's library for rare books and special collections and one of the 18 libraries of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. It is located on Seventh Street south of Showalter Fountain on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

For more information call 812-855-2452. The museum is free and open to the public.