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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum cuts ties with foundation

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum cuts ties with foundation

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SPRINGFIELD — After months of disagreements and negotiations, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation are ending their relationship with each other.

The foundation serves as the fundraising arm of the library and museum, which means it will no longer handle fundraising duties or purchasing items for the museum's collection. Each organization placed blame on the other.

"The ALPLM feels it is vital for the Foundation to disclose how much money it raises, where that money goes, and what fundraising plans are in the works to support this institution. The Foundation is unwilling to provide satisfactory answers to those questions," the ALPLM said in a statement.

The Foundation shot back, saying "the State and ALPLM were inconsistent, unreasonable and threatening in their demands, and spreading misinformation about the Foundation, leading us to question if they were indeed negotiating with us in good faith."

Erin Carlson Mast, the head of the foundation, said the agreement it was in with ALPLM was "radical" and "one-sided." It was looking forward to ALPLM having new leadership for it to work with.

The Foundation was founded in 2001 to raise the money to allow the ALPLM to open. Since then, the foundation has raised $42 million for ALPLM.

The two groups had a deadline of March 31 to reach a relationship. The foundation wanted to extend the deadline, which it said the state and ALPLM refused to do. The foundation's understanding on March 31 was that negotiations would continue and it was "blindsided" by the museum's announcement Thursday.

"We are puzzled and disappointed at this entirely-avoidable outcome. We are especially shocked and dismayed that, on March 31, the State and ALPLM unilaterally moved to evict the Foundation from our offices," the foundation said.

The museum said there was little choice but to move the foundation out of its space when the agreement expired.

"Without a written agreement, the ALPLM cannot allow a private foundation to continue using rent-free state office space, solicit money on state property or seek donations in the ALPLM's name," ALPLM said.

Both sides said they were open to future negotiations, however, the foundation wants to wait until the new director of the ALPLM takes over in June. ALPLM said the change will have "little effect" for visitors. Items purchased by the foundation for the museum are part of a separate agreement. Memberships sold through the foundation will continue to be honored until it expires or March 31, 2022, whichever comes first.

"We're optimistic we can find a way to overcome to disagreements and come to an agreement," Carlson Mast said.

The relationship between the two organizations has been rocky in recent years. In 2007, the Foundation purchased a stove pipe hat that was said to belong to Lincoln. However, a study completed in 2019 found no evidence it was ever owned by the former president. The hat was a piece in a $25 million purchase of what is known as the Taper Collection. The debt the foundation incurred because of the hat became a burden to both organizations in recent years.

There were fears the artifacts from the $25 million purchase, which included blood-stained gloves Lincoln had in his pocket when he was killed, would have to be sold off to deal with debt. In 2019 the foundation got an extension on the loan to October 2022 to repay $8.8 million.

In recent years, ALPLM itself has had its issues at the top of the organization. Gov. J.B. Pritzker fired museum director Alan Lowe in 2019 for improperly loaning a copy of the Gettysburg Address. The museum's new director, Christina Shutt will take over in June.

As for what is next for the foundation, Carlson Mast said it will "carry out our mission and honor our commitments for the public benefit."


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