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Library looks at Lincoln

Thu., Jan. 4, 2007, midnight

A traveling exhibit tracing Abraham Lincoln’s transformation from antislavery moderate to “The Great Emancipator” will open Saturday at Spokane’s Downtown Library branch, Main Avenue and Lincoln Street, adjacent to the city’s Lincoln statue.

The exhibit, which will remain until Feb. 23, offers a chance to learn more about how Lincoln decided to free slaves and preserve the Union.

It draws upon original documents in the collections of the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City.

The exhibit, contained on six large panels, is titled “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation,” and will be set up in the Downtown Library’s gallery space on the ground floor.

“It is a revealing insight into the values, principles, and ideals that guided one of our greatest presidents,” Spokane librarians said in an announcement.

While Lincoln was devoted to principles of freedom and equality, he was also seen as a pragmatist, librarians said. Before the Civil War, he believed an attack on slavery would split the Union, but he became convinced that freeing slaves would help the Union militarily.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute organized the exhibit with the cooperation of the American Library Association and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which was created by Congress to plan a national celebration leading up to and commemorating Lincoln’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009.

The Spokane Public Library received a $1,000 grant to train a staff member to host the exhibit and to bring in a guest speaker, author Ronald C. White Jr., at 2 p.m. Jan. 20.

A series of free programs and events will be sponsored by the library in connection with the exhibit. The first is an opening reception at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Downtown Library. Light refreshments courtesy of the Spokane Public Library Foundation will be served. Members of the Washington Civil War Association have volunteered to come to the reception dressed in period clothing and to bring artifacts from Lincoln’s time. They will be on hand to talk about Lincoln. Formal remarks are set for 2 p.m.

As part of the exhibit, the library is starting a penny drive to mark the loss of 618,222 men who died during the Civil War. Of those, 204,070 died on the battlefield. The rest – 414,152 – succumbed to disease, blood loss, starvation, cold or other effects of war.

All six city library branches will be taking penny donations in an effort to collect a penny for every life lost. The coins featuring Lincoln’s likeness will be donated to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Spokane.

For more information, contact Eva Silverstone, communications coordinator at the library, at (509) 444-5307, or at, or Becky Menzel, exhibit coordinator, at (509) 444-5361 or Information is also posted under the special events section of the library Web site at


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