Letters to the Editor 12/20/18
A SUCCESSFUL BICENTENNIAL
The Illinois Bicentennial Coordinating Committee of Springfield worked intently to make the Illinois Bicentennial a celebration that Springfield would be proud of. Now that our work has ceased, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the many organizations, businesses, nonprofits and individuals that made this year so memorable.
I certainly have enjoyed all the people that I met, all the groups with which I worked, and the attendees at the various sites. Thank you to one and all.
ABOUT NOT TALKING ABOUT THE HAT
The current ALPLM executive director, Alan Lowe, has much more professional experience than any of the past three permanent and several interim museum directors who have preceded him. But, respectfully, it’s necessary that I respond to his editorial letter that Illinois Times published Dec. 6.
I aided Gov. George Ryan from the beginning as he moved to make the ALPLM a reality. Ryan initially appointed me to the advisory board to help with local tourism, and later Gov. Quinn appointed me to the Historic Preservation Board that oversaw the Presidential Library and Museum. My museum experience also included serving six years on the Illinois State Museum board.
Recently I testified at the House legislative hearing concerning the ALPLM Foundation’s lack of transparency, conflicts of interest and overall disharmony. I agree with Director Lowe’s concern about the ALPLM Foundation’s behavior and that too much emphasis has been attached to Lincoln’s hat, an attention-grabber that national and international news has covered. This has hurt the ALPLM image and may have a negative effect on local tourism.
Director Lowe, I hate to correct you, but there were more items besides Lincoln’s hat in the Taper Collection that have questionable provenance. An appraiser sent emails to the then state historian and Louise Taper herself warning of such before the second appraisal was submitted. The ALPLM Foundation did not make it public for years after.
Dave McKinney, then with the Sun-Times, initially raised the problems of authenticity of Lincoln’s hat. Bruce Rushton of Illinois Times suggested a forensic test be performed. I was on the ALPLM board at the time and made the motion for a forensic test. Dr. Shirley Portwood, who is now on the SIU board, seconded my motion. The chair postponed the vote till the next meeting. Dr. Portwood and I were both replaced on the ALPLM board before the next meeting call.
At that meeting Bruce Rushton sat next to Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney. The meeting quickly turned into a circus with staff screaming at me when I requested a forensic test be conducted. Months later the foundation secretly, without even the knowledge of the past museum director, performed undercover forensic tests coordinated by the Lincoln historian who originally made the outburst. The experts recommended that the hat never be displayed as belonging to Abraham Lincoln. We owe a debt of gratitude to Bruce Rushton and Dave McKinney for getting out in front of this.