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Thomas Clatterbuck

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An important Lincoln artifact was returned to Springfield today. The former president is interred in the city’s Oak Ridge cemetery. After years of fundraising and conservation work, the book that proves it is here as well. “Interment Book One” would be just another cemetery interment record except for what is on page 22. That page lists Abraham Lincoln and his cause of death, “assassination.”

That line led to the book being repeatedly handled over the last 150 years. Any document that receives that level of attention for so long will have some unavoidable damage. But the real harm came from state archivists. When the book was unbound and digitized, the process was not done with the care the document needed or deserved. Poor storage after the unbinding caused Oak Ridge officials to seek conservation and better preservation for the book.

Restoring the book was no small undertaking. The Oak Ridge Board wanted the work to be done right, which required finding a qualified specialist. They eventually hired Graphic Conservation Co. out of Chicago to do the work. Hiring specialists takes money. Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and the City helped the cemetery raise the nearly $30,000 that was needed to restore this document and the second book that recorded Mary Todd Lincoln. That book is still being conserved.

Once the book was restored, the next question was how and where to preserve it. The book itself is the property of Oak Ridge, and by extension the City of Springfield. Keeping legal ownership of the artifact was of great concern for the city. However, the city was also not in the best position to store the book. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library will house the book and keep it safe for the future, but they will not legally own the book.

If you want to see the book, it will be on display at the Abraham Lincoln Library from May 7th to May 17th. It will be then be on display Abraham Lincoln Museum for the rest of May. After that, it will be much more difficult to see the book. Due to the book’s importance and condition, it will only be on display for special occasions; so make arrangements to see it in May if you want to do so.

You can watch the full unveiling ceremony in the player.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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