Digitally sharing our Lincoln collection with the world

8/31/2021 cbw

By Megan Klintworth

It has been a busy summer for the Audiovisual Department at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Our department features materials that typically need to be seen or heard in-person to be truly appreciated. That being said, some of the collection is already available online at Chronicling Illinois, and we expect our digital footprint to keep growing so more people around the world can benefit from what’s here at the ALPLM.

Our next big step in the digital world will be Picturing Lincoln, a project supported by an Illinois History-Digital Imaging grant. This two-year grant is funded by the Illinois State Library and will assist the ALPLM in the digitization and curation of nearly 8,000 items related to Abraham Lincoln and support the creation of a collection that will be freely available via the Illinois Digital Archives.

The depth and breadth of the collection is astounding and contains one-of-a-kind items not held in any other repository in the world. By digitizing these materials, researchers and students across the globe will be given unfettered access to the triumphs and tragedies that befell both the Lincoln family and the nation.

Some items that will fall under the umbrella of this project involve Lincoln’s death. There’s a wanted poster offering a reward for his killer, a photograph of Lincoln lying in state at New York City’s Hall, a time card for the train carrying his remains home to Springfield.

Detail from a card showing the schedule of the Lincoln funeral train.Detail from a card showing the schedule of the Lincoln funeral train. (ALPLM)

Other items shed light on the Civil War and its causes. Political posters tout candidates in the 1860 election. Broadsides announce auctions of enslaved people or offer rewards for those who have escaped. Newspapers break the news of Richmond’s fall as the war drew to a close.

Still others remind us of Lincoln as a husband and father. The material that will be digitized includes images of Lincoln’s immediate family as well as the grandchildren and great-grandchildren he never got to see.

A Lincoln family photo album. A Lincoln family photo album. (ALPLM)

Many of the broadsides, or posters, that will be digitized can serve as primary source imagery about Abraham Lincoln and the United States during the Civil War era. We will also be collaborating with the ALPLM Education Department to help create educational resources like lesson plans and teaching guides that will be available on the ALPLM website.

How does this differ from what’s already available on Chronicling Illinois? First, Picturing Lincoln will be specific to Lincoln and the Civil War, rather than from many different eras of Illinois history. Second, it will be as complete as we can make it. Just as the Papers of Abraham Lincoln seeks to publish all documents by and to Lincoln, Picturing Illinois will aim to digitize all Lincoln-related images at the ALPLM. Finally, the images will be of much higher quality than those on Chronicling Illinois – up to 600 dots per inch.

In the coming months, we will embark on the first phase of this project and we will provide updates as we progress through this process. We are excited for this opportunity to expand our digital collection and to be able to share a variety of artifacts with the world that may not have been easily accessible in the past.

Megan Klintworth is the ALPLM iconographer and head of the Audiovisual Department.

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