As I’ve mentioned before, the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN has one of the finest Lincolniana/Civil War collections anywhere. For decades, this material has been a fabulous resource for both the public and for scholars.
Much of the credit for building this collection belongs to the late Lincoln scholar R. Gerald McMurtry. After spending a few years with the Lincoln National Life Foundation’s collection (formerly on display at the now-closed Lincoln Museum in Ft. Wayne, IN) and the Lincoln Memorial Highway Commission, McMurtry came to LMU in 1937. He stayed for nearly two decades—returning to the Lincoln National Life Foundation in 1956—and in that time he oversaw the university’s “golden age” of Lincolnian acquisition and scholarship, collecting many of the university’s most spectacular pieces and writing or editing an impressive list of scholarly publications.
This photo shows a very small part of the collection that McMurtry helped build: a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln by one of her relatives, Lincoln campaign banners, and a flag Lincoln raised during his 1858 bid to unseat Stephen Douglas.
Until several years ago, LMU’s museum hosted an annual lecture named for Lincoln artist and collector Lloyd Ostendorf. It was always a great opportunity for students, alumni, and visitors to hear Lincoln and Civil War scholars present their research, and it was sad to see it go.
I’m pleased to report that LMU is once again mounting a Lincoln lecture series, this time under the aegis of the college’s new Abraham Lincoln Institute for the Study of Leadership and Public Policy. Appropriately, it’s named in honor of R. Gerald McMurtry.
Dan Stowell will present the very first R. Gerald McMurtry Memorial Lecture on Feb. 12 at LMU’s Duncan School of Law in Knoxville. Dr. Stowell is editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and author of a number of books on Lincoln and nineteenth-century history. You can get more information about the lectures series and the institute here.
As somebody who got his start in public history at LMU, I’m extremely happy to see the university hosting regular Lincoln lectures again, and equally happy that the school is honoring McMurtry. I encourage anyone in East Tennessee with an interest in history to attend and help get this series off to a great start.