So far, Mike Madigan and Bruce Rauner haven’t turned to GoFundMe to solve their budget crunch.
But Abe Lincoln has.
Actually, it’s the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, whose officials are turning to 21st-century technology to try to hang onto a trove of the president’s 19th-century artifacts, including one of his supposed stovepipe beaver-fur top hats.
Hat in hand? Abraham Lincoln museum may sell artifacts to pay debts
The foundation announced earlier this month that it could be forced to put the iconic headwear and other Lincoln artifacts on the auction block to pay off millions in loan debt, and this week they launched an online fundraising campaign asking people to pass the hat.
“All of us today, who, because of Lincoln, experience a more free and just society, must rise up, contribute and ensure justice for him,” foundation CEO Carla Knorowski wrote in a post on the GoFundMe page.
“If a single Lincoln artifact goes to auction, taken from the public realm, then we, as a nation are collectively diminished and must look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility. It is not any one individual’s or group’s responsibility to bear; it is all of ours to bear,” she wrote.
By late Thursday, 65 people had made donations totaling about $3,000.
The foundation will need a lot more contributions to reach their goal of $9.7 million, the remainder of a $23 million loan they used a decade ago to purchase the Barry and Louise Taper Collection. That note comes due in October 2019.
The state operates and funds the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum where the artifacts are on display in Springfield, but the foundation that supports it is not state-funded.
Foundation officials say they have reached out to Rauner’s office to secure money from the cash-strapped state but received no commitments. The governor’s office has said they “are certainly working with the Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation as they work through their options.”
“What would Lincoln do if faced with this problem? He would solve it and not let us down,” Knorowski wrote. “In that same vein, we must solve it and not let him down. We should, posthaste, set our hearts, minds and yes, money to the task we have before us.”
In addition to the famous hat, the Taper collection includes the blood-stained gloves Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, an 1824 book containing the first known example of Lincoln’s handwriting, unpublished letters from Mary Todd Lincoln and items from assassin John Wilkes Booth.
It’s not clear how much the items in the collection could fetch at auction. The prized stovepipe hat was valued at $6.5 million in 2007, but its authenticity has been called into question in recent years.
Museum and foundation officials have insisted Lincoln donned the hat, though they acknowledged to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2012 that they could not pin down how the hat ended up in the hands of a farmer in the 1850s, and passed through the generations until it wound up in the Taper collection.