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Museum Taking Another Look At (Fake?) Lincoln Hat

Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois
An Abraham Lincoln impersonator opens testinomy during a House hearing for the Lincoln museum foundation in this file photo from 2018.

Officials at Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, known as the ALPLM, are once again trying to verify the authenticity of a hat once thought to belong to Lincoln.

The museum’s private foundation purchased the stovepipe hat in 2007. It was once valued at $6.5 million, but multiple investigations have failed to turn up any evidence of a Lincoln connection.

The museum’s new board of trustees, which met for the first time Wednesday, appointed a sub-committee to investigate the hat.

At the board’s first meeting, board Chairman Ray LaHood indirectly referenced the museum’s other challenges — the director was fired last year, and the foundation is millions of dollars in debt.

“I think the fact that we have a new board — I think we have a breath of fresh air,” LaHood said. “I think when the new executive director comes on, it will be a completely new start for the library and museum.”

State Historian Samuel Wheeler said ALPLM should improve its acquisition process to prevent this type of thing from happening again.

“The report details that in 2007, ALPLM did not conduct any research on a $6.5 million object prior to advising its foundation partner to acquire it," Wheeler said.

Wheeler suggested hiring three costume experts to verify the era in which the hat was made.

Mike Smith is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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