The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, formerly known as the Illinois State Historical Library, is a public, non-circulating research library. Not only does the Library have a detailed and extensive history, but it also has an extensive collection of materials relating to the history of Illinois and the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, its most famous citizen.
The Illinois State Historical Library was established by legislation in 1889 and was housed in the Illinois State Library, which at that time was in the Old State Capitol. The library was originally governed by three trustees, appointed by the Governor, who appointed a librarian to oversee its day to day operations. The Illinois State Historical Society was formed in 1900. These two units were then merged by legislation in 1903.In 1918 when the Centennial Building was constructed, the State Library and the Historical Library moved into that newly built and specially designed space. In 1970, the Illinois State Historical Library moved to a newly designed, though previous location, under the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield. In 1985, the Illinois State Historical Library, still in its location under the Old State Capitol, became a division of the newly formed Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The trustees governing the library became the governing body of the Historic Preservation Agency. These five trustees recommend the appointment of a director who is responsible for the agency’s day to day activities.
With the opening of the newly constructed library in 2004, the name of the Illinois State Historical Library was changed to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The original act which established the Library was repealed; the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library was then established with the same responsibilities, albeit more detailed and up to date, as the original library. The Historic Preservation Agency Board of Trustees continues to recommend the appointment of the Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The collections of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library are the Published Materials Collection, the Lincoln Collection, the Manuscripts, the Audiovisual, and Newspapers on Microfilm Collection; in addition the Library supports Preservation Programs:
the Microfilming and Conservation Labs.
The Published Materials Collection, located in the Steve Neal Reading Room on the first floor and the lower level stacks of the library, is made up of a variety of books and pamphlets, maps and periodicals. Subjects included in the collection include biographies, presidential histories, histories of Illinois counties, cities and towns, agriculture, religion, transportation, genealogies and many others. Some of these materials are available for interlibrary loan to libraries across the country.
The Lincoln Collection is the most complete repository of the Abraham Lincoln’s pre-presidential materials in the nation. The collection preserves manuscripts written or signed by Lincoln and contains books, pamphlets, broadsides, prints, photographs and various artifacts relating to Lincoln and his family. The collection holds more than 1500 items written or signed by the sixteenth president.
The Manuscripts Collection, located on the second floor of the library, contains a variety of documents from Illinois businesses, individuals, and government officials, including nearly all of the governors and many state and federal legislators. Major holdings relate to frontier travel and settlement, agriculture, the Civil War, medical care, women’s studies, and labor and social history.
The Audiovisual Collection, also located on the second floor, contains photographs, broadsides, films and videotapes, and oral histories and audio tapes. The collection includes images of Civil War soldiers and battles, the Illinois State Fair, cities and towns, businesses and labor organizations, Illinois governors and other elected officials, and World Wars I and II. Television news film collections are also available.
The Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, also located on the second floor, provides access to more than 100,000 reels of Illinois newspapers on microfilm. As the state-mandated newspaper repository for Illinois, the library holds titles from every county in the state. Many of the newspapers date from the early and mid-nineteenth century. Microfilm is available for interlibrary loan.
Preservation Programs of the library consist of the Conservation Laboratory and the Microfilm Laboratory. The Conservation Laboratory is equipped with a variety of conservation tools; staff provides various treatments to maintain and preserve the diverse collection of historical materials housed in the library. The Microfilm Laboratory microfilms newspapers, books and manuscripts for the Library’s collection. Most of the microfilmed materials are available for purchase by individuals, libraries, historical and/or genealogical societies. The purchase price for a roll of microfilm is $45 plus shipping and handling.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library continues the strong tradition begun by the Illinois State Historical Library over 100 years ago as the premier repository for the study of Illinois, its history and its people, in the nation.