Lincoln library foundation says it may have to sell artifacts to pay debtMay 10, 2018 | In the Press
From State-Journal Register (http://www.sj-r.com/news/20180510/lincoln-library-foundation-says-it-may-have-to-sell-artifacts-to-pay-debt)
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation said Thursday it may have to resort to selling artifacts in its possession if it cannot resolve financial issues over a loan it obtained to purchase a vast collection of Lincoln artifacts a decade ago.
The organization issued a statement that it has met with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office about its financial problems but did not get any financial commitments from the administration.
“If the Foundation is not able to secure commitments in the very near future to retire most if not all of the remaining $9.7 million debt, it will have no choice but to accelerate the possibility of selling these unique artifacts on the private market which would likely remove them from public view forever,” the statement read.
The foundation — which is separate from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum — paid $25 million in 2007 to acquire the Barry and Louise Taper Collection, an extensive collection of Lincoln artifacts and other objects.
Among the items that are part of the collection is a stovepipe hat purported to have been worn by Lincoln, bloodstained gloves Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, an 1824 book containing the first known example of Lincoln’s handwriting and items related to Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Some of the items are on display at the presidential museum in downtown Springfield.
The foundation secured a $23 million loan to buy the collection. Since then, the organization said, it has paid down more than $13 million of the loan, all through private fundraising.
“While the Foundation’s lender has been quite helpful, we now face significant uncertainty about whether the Foundation’s lender will be willing and able to refinance the loan at affordable terms,” the statement said. “The loan comes up for renewal in October 2019, just 20 short months away.”
The foundation said it will continue its private fundraising efforts but also wants to discuss a plan with state officials “that would include some state funding.”
Budget negotiators with the General Assembly have been meeting to work out a new spending plan. Details have been scarce, but Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said earlier this week that the $38 billion projected for state revenue next year will not be enough to cover all of the state’s expenses.
Rauner spokeswoman Patty Schuh said, “We are certainly working with the Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation as they work through their options. We are listening to them and we are listening to their business plan.”
She would not elaborate.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he became aware of possible artifact selling on Wednesday and said the foundation should move cautiously.
“I’ve been told tangentially that there may have been discussions about divesting itself of some of the Taper collection, which I think is absolutely ridiculous,” Butler said. “It’s the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. It should be the repository for everything we can acquire of Lincoln.”
At the same time, Butler said, there are some non-Lincoln items that are part of the collection that the state had to buy along with the Lincoln artifacts.
“I’d be fine with (selling) the non-Lincoln items,” Butler said. “If it is something that really doesn’t fit with the mission of the presidential museum, then I don’t see the need why it would need to be in the collection. But obviously we would leave that up to the experts to decide.”