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State

Debt may force Lincoln library and museum to sell artifacts

SPRINGFIELD – The foundation that supports the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum says it might have to sell artifacts if it can’t pay off a decade-old loan that financed items related to the 16th president.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation has revealed it owes $10 million on a 2007 loan it used to buy the Barry and Louise Taper Collection, which includes a stovepipe hat Lincoln purportedly wore, bloodstained gloves he wore the night he was assassinated and an 1824 book containing the first known example of his handwriting.

The foundation paid $25 million and borrowed $23 million. The note comes due in October 2019.

“We now face significant uncertainty about whether the foundation’s lender will be willing and able to refinance the loan at affordable terms,” the foundation said in a statement.

Foundation officials have been in talks with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office about securing state money but said they haven’t received any financial commitments, the foundation said in a news release.

The foundation plans to continue private fundraising and to discuss a plan that includes state funding, but without commitments “it will have no choice but to accelerate the possibility of selling these unique artifacts on the private market, which would likely remove them from public view forever.”

Rauner spokeswoman Patty Schuh called the museum “a jewel for the state.”

“We are certainly working with the Abraham Lincoln Library Foundation as they work through their options,” Schuh said. “We are listening to them and we are listening to their business plan.”

Rene Brethorst, the foundation’s chief operating officer, said they are “working hard to avoid” sale of the Lincoln items.

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