Support for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln

SPRINGFIELD – The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has been awarded grants by two important federal agencies for the goal of building a 21st century research tool that can be used by Lincoln scholars and fans around the world.

The project, which aims to publish every document written by or to Abraham Lincoln, was awarded up to $350,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and $87,125 by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

“These grants show that experts in the field are confident the Papers of Abraham Lincoln is on the right path to fulfill its important mission,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “In the past few years, we have overhauled the project, hired an excellent director and begun publishing rare Lincoln documents online.”

In 2018, the project launched its digital platform,,
by releasing edited, annotated versions of every known Lincoln document from his birth in 1809 to the end of his legislative career in 1842. The site gives everyone access to documents from archives and private collections around the world. 

“This project will make more Lincoln information available to more people than ever before,” said Dr. Daniel Worthington, who took over as director of the Papers in 2018. “We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for supporting this effort and recognizing the progress we’ve made.”

The grants will allow the project to continue its important work and add staff.  

The NHPRC provided the full $87,125 requested by the Papers – the first time the project has ever gotten 100 percent funding from the commission.

The grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities includes $150,000 in direct funding and up to $200,000 over three years to match funds raised by the presidential library’s foundation.

“The foundation is grateful to both the NEH and NHPRC for their generous continued support of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. These grants greatly assist this vital project in continuing to make papers either written by or to our 16th president accessible to the public,” said Dr. Carla Knorowski, CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. “Working together with our generous donors and the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, we are confident this new NEH grant will be successfully matched, as have previous grants of this magnitude and scope.”

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating and publishing online all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). It includes biographies of people mentioned in the correspondence and huge amounts of related background materials. 

Scholars praise the project.

"There are thousands of new Lincoln documents now accessible to the general public. But for scholars, what is most impressive is that PAL has uncovered dozens of incredibly important political letters, especially from Lincoln's pre-presidential career, that have the potential to change the way we describe his leadership style and even the narrative of his rise to political power," said Matthew Pinsker, author of “Boss Lincoln” and a historian at Dickinson College.

Ronald C. White, author of the best-selling biography “A. Lincoln,” said: “As I work on my next book, ‘Abraham Lincoln’s Diary,’ it would not be possible without the greatly expanded scope the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project provides to both scholars and the general public. The opportunity to review Lincoln’s incoming correspondence again and again places what we thought we knew about a particular Lincoln letter in a new light. I am impressed and grateful for the professionalism of the Papers staff. Count me as an advocate and a fan.”

The next series of documents covers the period from Lincoln leaving the Illinois legislature to the end of his single term in Congress. It includes a letter that led to Lincoln being challenged to a duel, his first message by telegraph and his “spot” resolutions in Congress that questioned the legitimacy of the Mexican War.

The material – 464 documents by or to Lincoln and 3,372 background documents – will be published in weekly installments at over the next year.

The Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can see ghosts come to life on stage, watch TV coverage of the 1860 presidential election, roam through the Lincoln White House, experience booming cannons in a Civil War battle and come face to face with priceless original Lincoln artifacts.

The Library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history. 

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