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Gettysburg Address returns to public display

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[June 25, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Two score and 12 weeks ago, the state of Illinois' original manuscript of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was taken off public display to give the document a well-deserved rest. Now, on the 145th anniversary of the famous battle from which it derives its name, the document will temporarily return to public display in the Treasures Gallery at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

The Gettysburg Address will be placed back on display on July 1, exactly one year after it was removed from public viewing. It will remain available for public viewing until Aug. 20, at which time a major new exhibit of original Lincoln items will fill the museum's Treasures Gallery.

"The Gettysburg Address was on display in the Treasures Gallery for the first two years of the museum's existence," said Rick Beard, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. "We are pleased to once again offer this crowd favorite' for our museum visitors."

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum rotates its collection of original Lincoln artifacts so a number are on public display at any given time, while the remainder are stored in a secure, climate-controlled underground vault. Original historical materials such as the Gettysburg Address remain in better condition if they are allowed to "rest" in a more controlled environment rather than remain on constant public display.

The vault in which the 50,000 items of the ALPLM Lincoln Collection are stored maintains ideal conditions for paper conservation: a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, relative humidity of 43 percent and -- for the most valuable items -- complete darkness. Conditions are close to those targets in the museum's Treasures Gallery, where fiber-optic lighting minimizes any natural fading of the ink.

There are five original handwritten versions of the Gettysburg Address. Two are in the Library of Congress, one at Cornell University and one in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's copy, written out at the request of Edward Everett, the main speaker on Nov. 19, 1863, at the Gettysburg Cemetery dedication, came to the state of Illinois in 1943 thanks to the contributions of pennies by Illinois schoolchildren plus a donation by department store magnate Marshall Field III. This copy contains the two additional words "under God" that Lincoln had not included in his two original file copies.

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And what is the market value of what many would argue is one of the most important documents in American history? "Since the state of Illinois does not sell its Lincoln artifacts, no one knows for certain what price it would bring," said Beard. "Suffice it to say, it's priceless."

The presidential library and museum's Henry Horner Lincoln Collection also contains:

  • Nearly 1,600 original letters and manuscripts written or signed by Lincoln.

  • More than 250 historical artifacts associated with the 16th president and his family, including the Leland-Boker printing of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by the president, Lincoln's original traveling shaving mirror, Tad Lincoln's toy cannon, the skirt to Mary Lincoln's wedding dress and Robert Lincoln's college keepsakes.

  • Approximately 500 items of Mary Lincoln correspondence.

  • The 46 letterpress books of Robert Lincoln's professional career.

  • More than 1,000 Lincoln-related prints and photographs.

  • More than 1,000 broadsides.

  • More than 10,000 books and pamphlets.

  • More than 1,000 items of Lincoln ephemera, artworks and crafts reflecting evolving views of Lincoln and his legacy in the collective memory of the American people and the people of the world.

For more information, visit

[Text from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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