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Gettysburg Address displayed “with an exploding rat”

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019

* Bruce Rushton

The inspector general’s office is at it again.

This time, gumshoes figured out that Alan Lowe, erstwhile executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, wasn’t up to snuff. The investigation, according to an IG report released last Friday, was sparked by a tipster who blew the whistle three weeks after I wrote a column detailing the sordid journey of the Gettysburg Address to Texas, where right-wing huckster Glenn Beck displayed it along with an exploding rat and other scrapings from his collection of stuff that includes a Darth Vader mask and a fake pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. If Elvis had run a thrift store, I’m guessing it would have looked a lot like the storage room at Mercury One, the Texas nonprofit headed by Beck.

Pretty much, the IG’s report parallels my January column that questioned why the ALPLM ignored protocols and entrusted the Gettysburg Address to an unaccredited museum holding its first exhibition under the supervision of a curator months removed from employment as a server at Pluckers Wing Bar. Labeling the Mercury One loan “reckless,” the IG called for Lowe’s head and said we’re fortunate that artifacts came back intact. Instead of being displayed in a gallery, the Gettysburg Address was hung in Beck’s office. To compare Beck to Ralphie unwrapping his Red Ryder BB gun doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s Christmas, come on!” Beck exclaims as the Gettysburg Address and other relics are taken from a crate. “Let’s open presents!” Lowe was absent in the video that was live-streamed while gawkers watched in person, contrary to recommendations from pros who say the arrival of valuables should be kept low key to minimize security risks. Lowe told the inspector general he was “off doing other things” when the speech and other artifacts were unpacked, and he was also busy elsewhere when relics were repacked for the return trip to Springfield. Beck, who at one point questions the need for gloves, helps carry the document valued at $20 million to a table in his office. “Come see it for yourself,” he tells his online audience. “Tickets are available at the door.”

Even after the inspector general received a complaint, Lowe played footsie with Beck, whose outfit asked to borrow more artifacts, including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

But, yeah, Lowe’s ouster was all about politics. Right.

Go read the whole thing because there’s lots more.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Bruce (no not him) - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 9:56 am:

    Exploding rats are an important historical artifact. At least to Glenn Beck.
    I’m not sure one can compare it to a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg address. /S

  2. - Bertrum Cates - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    I am not the biggest Rushton fan, but, “If Elvis had run a thrift store, I’m guessing it would have looked a lot like the storage room at Mercury One,” is a great line.

  3. - Can - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    Dear Tennessee,

    Please keep Alan Lowe. Unlike the Gettysburg Address, we do not want him back.


  4. - Sayitaintso - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    Dog excrement is several steps above the class shown by these (fill in the blank). (In your head)

  5. - efudd - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    Questioned the need for gloves?

    Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of human biology knows that hands contain natural oils, which doesn’t pair well with paper, especially old paper.

    Beck not understanding this, or caring, is a direct reflection of his megalomania. How anyone can listen to him absolutely mystifies me.

  6. - OutOfState - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:14 am:

    ===Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of human biology===

    Heck, anyone who watched National Treasure knows to use gloves.

  7. - Pelonski - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    I would agree with Mr. Lowe that politics got him fired, but I’m not sure we would agree on who was the culprit. I can’t imagine his lending the documents to Beck was anything but politically motivated. He took an apolitical job, made it political, and put one of the world’s most valuable documents at unnecessary risk. Regardless of your political affiliation, I don’t see how you could justify keeping him in that position.

  8. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:24 am:

    This makes me ill

  9. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    I’m kind of amazed that a document worth $20 million isn’t permanently encased in some kind of sealed, nitrogen-filled display case, especially if it’s going to be loaned out. You know, to protect it from coffee spills and such. Maybe because then it wouldn’t have fit in a standard FedEx box?

  10. - Huh? - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    I’m wondering if the exploding rat was in the show case or sitting at a desk with a “glen beck” name plate.

  11. - JoanP - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    Sorry, but, with some exceptions (daguerrotypes, for instance), NOT using gloves is the best practice.

    I have visited a slew of Special Collections (at the University of Chicago, the Newberry Library, etc.), and it is very rare to be asked to use gloves.

  12. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    “…right-wing huckster Glenn Beck…”

    I’m constantly amazed at the people in the U.S. who follow folks like this. Whatever became of the ability to distinguish between right and wrong?

  13. - Steve Rogers - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    @pelonski. Politics didn’t get Lowe fired, that just feeds the false narrative that Lowe is a victim here. His reckless abandonment of a priceless treasure and hubris got him fired. Deservedly so.

  14. - LakeCo - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    Well, to be fair on the glove question, current best practices in archives management do not require the use of gloves when handling historic documents, as the loss of tactile sensation and dexterity pretty much cancels out the protection the gloves offer. The industry standard now is to wash your hands before handling manuscripts.
    This is also moot because the Gettysburg Address was in a frame.
    But Glenn Beck is still disgusting, as is the act of loaning him a priceless artifact.

  15. - OneMan - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    Now if it was displayed with Chicago Legend Scaby The Rat, I could see that…

  16. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 11:39 am:

    If you got an exploding rat, why do you need the Gettysburg Address?

  17. - Streator Curmudgeon - Wednesday, Nov 27, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    Wolf, I concur.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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