An Illinois watchdog has determined the head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield violated policy by loaning its copy of the Gettysburg Address to conservative commentator Glenn Beck.
The state’s Office of the Inspector General started investigating the loan after it received an anonymous tip that officials at the museum “pimped out” an irreplaceable, handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address to Beck for $50,000 last year.
Mercury One, Beck’s right-leaning nonprofit, put the rare artifact on display for three days at its office in Texas as part of a “pop-up” museum in June 2018.
In its decision announced Friday, the inspector general found that, “Given the priceless nature of the [museum’s] copy of the Gettysburg Address, it arguably should be treated with the very highest level of care and caution.”
Instead, the watchdog found, the former head of the Lincoln Library and Museum, Alan Lowe, violated its policies on loaning artifacts by taking its copy of the Gettysburg Address for the Mercury One event.
That loan policy was put in place a decade earlier by officials concerned that “wear and tear and increasingly worrisome security issues associated with travel and transport make it is [sic] just too risky to send the Gettysburg Address ... to other institutions,” and that “risking the state’s treasures is simply not worth it.”
The Lincoln Library and Museum’s copy of the Gettysburg Address is one of five handwritten copies in existence. Its value has been appraised at $20 million.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, fired Lowe in September without explanation.
In a statement, Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said it’s “essential to safeguard” Lincoln artifacts for future generations.
“The governor took swift action to address the troubling findings in this report,” she said. “We look forward to working with newly installed board, along with the team of museum professionals, historians and librarians at the ALPLM to ensure that the institution is meeting our high standards.”
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ 91.5 Chicago.
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