- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2008

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - The Library of Congress, Ford’s Theatre and two other Washington institutions have teamed up to compete for the Lincoln Museum’s $20 million collection of artifacts.

The partners, which also include the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and President Lincoln’s Cottage on the grounds of the Old Soldiers’ Home, are among about 40 groups that were invited to submit proposals for the collection.

The Fort Wayne museum closes Monday after being operated for 77 years by the Lincoln Financial Foundation as visitor interest had declined in recent years.

The foundation will decide in January where to send the collection, whose 350 documents signed by Lincoln includes copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery.

Those hoping to take it to Washington tout the capital’s ability to draw large crowds of tourists.

“It is where Lincoln became famous and made his mark,” said John Sellers, a Lincoln specialist at the Library of Congress. “It is a natural place because the assassination happened here. It is a natural place because of the wealth of material related to Lincoln and the assassination.”

The manuscript division of the Library of Congress already has a vast collection of Lincoln material, including his presidential papers. Other artifacts at the library include the items found in his pockets when he was shot at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth.

The cottage was restored and opened to the public for the first time last February.

The Allen County Public Library and the Indiana State Museum this month announced a coalition aimed at keeping the collection in Indiana, where Lincoln lived from age 7 until moving to Illinois when he was 21. They have the support of the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Library and Friends of the Lincoln Museum.

The foundation board plans to narrow the proposals in the fall, invite the finalists to meet with the curators in Fort Wayne and then make site visits.

The foundation is the charitable arm of Lincoln Financial Group, formerly based in Fort Wayne and now headquartered in Philadelphia.

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