Abraham Lincoln only lived in Indiana for fourteen years, but the Lincoln Museum has been in Fort Wayne for nearly four score years.
Unfortunately, it looks like their run is coming to an end. On Monday, museum officials announced they are closing their doors on June 30. They cite falling attendance numbers, as well as declining interest in traditional history museums.
Site officials claim the decision to close the museum was not a financial decision.
“There will be no money saved [from the closing]. This is not at all in the interest of saving money,” said a site official.
Yet, according to the news story I read, the museum’s total income was about $458,000, while the foundation’s income was about $113,000. However, their total operating costs reached nearly $1.6 million. That number includes nearly $325,000 in salary and benefits to the four highest paid museum employees.
“The revenue certainly has not covered the cost,” conceded an official.
The Lincoln Museum claimed to have the largest private collection of Lincoln-related material in the world, which included dozens of Lincoln family belongings, signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. Researchers have had access to 5,000 original nineteenth century photographs, 200,000 newspaper and magazine clippings, 340 nineteenth century sheet music titles.
What will happen to the museum’s prodigious collection?
Site officials will not sell the collection to private collectors. Instead, they will seek large institutions that can demonstrate both the financial means to maintain the collection and space to exhibit the items.
A site official tried to put a good spin on selling the collection to larger institutions. "The Lincoln Museum will now have a bigger stage," said the official.
If I were the director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, I would place a phone call ASAP.
The future of Lincoln Lore, the museum’s magazine, remains less certain.