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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 11, 2009

UI Libraries digitizes rare Abraham Lincoln artifacts

In celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the University of Iowa Libraries has digitized more than 1,000 artifacts related to Lincoln and his time for its new Abraham Lincoln Digital Collection, which explores the life and legacy of one of the nation's most notable presidents.

The digital collection at provides integrated access to a variety of Lincoln materials across three manuscript collections held in the University of Iowa Libraries' Special Collections department. Highlighted are two defining issues of Lincoln's presidency -- the Civil War and railroad expansion -- as well as his tremendous legacy revealed in materials amassed during the past 100 years by noted Lincoln collectors.

More than 800 items drawn from the James W. Bollinger collection are featured in the digital collection. Bollinger (1867-1951) was a lawyer and judge from Davenport who spent a lifetime amassing books, journals, letters, pamphlets and memorabilia by or about Lincoln. Upon Bollinger's death, the collection was bequeathed to the UI Libraries, where it has been continually developed.

"This digital collection allows us to bring some of the many fascinating pieces collected by Judge Bollinger to a much wider audience," says Greg Prickman, assistant head of the Libraries' Special Collections Department. "The items Bollinger collected show how Lincoln has been depicted over the years, but rather than simply focus on this visual legacy, we decided to include items from two other collections to provide a more detailed look into Lincoln's era."

One example of the items in the Lincoln Digital Collection is a hand-written 1856 letter by Lincoln and addressed to an abolitionist group in Muscatine:

". . . It would be very pleasant to strike hands with the Fremonters of Iowa, who have led the van so splendidly, in this grand charge which we hope and believe will end in a most glorious victory -- All thanks, all honor to Iowa!! But Iowa is out of all danger, and it is no time for us, when the battle still rages, to pay half-day visits to Iowa. I am sure you will excuse me for remaining in Illinois, where much hard work is still to be done."

The collection also includes items documenting major historic events of Lincoln's time:

--Letters and diaries featuring contemporary, first-hand accounts written by Iowans who served as soldiers, nurses, and administrators during the war.

--Photographs and documents concerning important early railroads in Illinois and Iowa, and the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and its expansion westward from Iowa.

The Abraham Lincoln Digital Collection was made available through the generosity of Mary Calkin, in memory of Homer Calkin, in recognition of his life-long interest in Abraham Lincoln. With her support, the Libraries were able to purchase specialized equipment with which many of these fragile artifacts could be digitized.

This collection is part of the Iowa Digital Library (, which contains more than 225,000 digital photographs, maps, sound recordings, and documents from libraries and archives at the University of Iowa and their partnering institutions.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Greg Prickman, UI Libraries, 319-335-6433; Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,