Greetings. We know you believe strongly in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and its mission of sharing President Lincoln’s legacy and Illinois’s history with the world. Therefore, we want you to be among the first to know of a change here at the ALPLM.
As of April 1, the ALPLM no longer has an operating agreement with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. That means the Foundation won’t be raising money or selling memberships on the ALPLM’s behalf. It won’t offer programming in conjunction with the presidential library or continue using state office space free of charge.
The decision to part ways was made reluctantly and only after months of fruitless attempts to negotiate with the Foundation. The Foundation simply would not provide fundamental fiscal information or commit to future cooperation. It wouldn’t even agree to regular meetings with ALPLM executives.
Without a commitment to work cooperatively to support ALPLM’s mission and provide meaningful transparency and accountability for the taxpayers of Illinois, it does not make sense to renew the ALPLM’s agreement with the Foundation.
So, what does this mean for operations at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum? The short answer is that very little will change.
The ALPLM will continue to be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every single day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Our amazing artifacts will still be on display, our exhibits will continue to immerse you in key moments from Lincoln’s life, and our popular shows will continue to run. In the library, our historians will continue researching Lincoln’s life and the rich history of Illinois, while our librarians will keep on caring for our collections, answering the questions of a curious public, and providing world-class service to researchers.
Rest assured, any membership sold or renewed before April 1 will still be entitled to free admission until it expires or until March 31, 2022, whichever comes first.
While the ALPLM will continue to entertain meaningful proposals from the Foundation, we will also explore the development of a new membership program and a new foundation to support the presidential library and museum’s mission.
To be clear, everyone at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum wanted to maintain a close relationship with the Foundation. However, as an institution bearing the name of America’s greatest president – a leader known for his insistence on honesty – 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 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the presidential library and the Foundation had not been significantly altered since it was signed many years ago. After seven extensions without much change, it clearly needed to be modernized. The MOU was set to expire at the end of 2020, so our team began contacting the Foundation in July to discuss updates. Our many, many meeting requests were rejected or simply ignored.
In December, ALPLM leaders submitted a draft agreement to forge significant measures aimed at improving communication, financial transparency, and cooperative planning. Further, at the request of the Foundation and with our hope that good-faith negotiations would proceed, we agreed to extend the agreement twice – once until January 31 of this year and then until March 31. Finally, on March 15, the Foundation submitted its response. It flatly rejected the ALPLM proposals, even one as simple as meeting four times a year with ALPLM leadership.
We even offered a temporary agreement that would have allowed the Foundation to continue overseeing contracts for food services and souvenirs at the museum. This was rejected, too, and our MOU with the Foundation expired last night at midnight.
Under the circumstances, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum must move forward on its own.
We thank the Foundation for its assistance over the years and wish its staff the best.