If awards were given for press releases — and surely, there must be some — the one announcing the closing of the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne has to be a nominee for something. Best Weaseling, maybe. For starters, there’s the headline:
Lincoln Financial Foundation to Make Its Lincoln Museum Collection More Accessible and Visible
Then there’s the lead:
Lincoln Financial Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Lincoln Financial Group, announced today it will take a two-pronged approach to make its Lincoln Museum collection more accessible and visible in celebration of the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial in 2009. The Lincoln Foundation currently owns one of the most extensive collections of Abraham Lincoln-related items including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a Thirteenth Amendment signed by Abraham Lincoln (see attached inventory overview list for more details). Specifically, Lincoln Foundation will: one, seek public partners with whom the Museum can explore exhibition options for its three-dimensional items and, two, digitize its documents in order to make the entire collection more visible and accessible to a greater number of people.
Wow, you’re thinking. They’re making the museum bigger? Finding a partner to increase the collection? What? Paragraph two:
The Lincoln Foundation embodies the principles of Abraham Lincoln who once said, “I am for those means which will give the greatest good to the greatest number.” “By collaborating with other museums, the Lincoln Foundation hopes to make these items available to a greater number of people using Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial as a catalyst,” said Priscilla Brown, Vice President, Lincoln National Corporation.
OK, so it’s a press release. There’s always some fluffing.
The Lincoln Foundation is proactively pursuing a solution that benefits historical education and scholarship and exposes the collection to the largest possible audience. Through invitation, the Lincoln Foundation will host a national informational session with potential public partners in late March to provide an understanding of the collection items and, in turn, discuss options for increasing visibility.
A national informational session? Cool. Is the media invited to cover it? Not exactly. Paragraph four:
The Lincoln Museum has operated in Fort Wayne, Ind., for many years, first as a library and then as a museum. As a result of this new strategic direction, The Lincoln Museum will close to the public effective June 30.
Talk about burying the lead.
The next paragraph is the standard boilerplate about the company, its assets and services. They actually put the news in the final paragraph.
What a fine bunch of bastards these people turned out to be. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, for decades it was based in the Fort and was one of the proudest members of the corporate community. It treated both its employees and its city generously; the work week ended at noon on Friday, and Fort Wayne is dotted with public assets that would never have found or sustained life without its largesse. If they could be a little pushy sometimes — as a reporter, you really didn’t know rigidly enforced rules of media relations until you’d experienced it at Lincoln — at least it was in the service of a greater good.
Then the beloved, longtime CEO retired, and his replacement let little time pass before announcing the executive offices would move closer to a major financial center — Philadelphia. Oh, but don’t panic! they said as they backed out the door. Everything else is staying here! Don’t be alarmed! Well, you know what happened next. Bit by bit, Lincoln Financial Group is leaving the city.
Dismantling the museum, however, is truly vile. The Lincoln Museum is — was — a little jewel. A major refurbishment in the 1990s transformed it into a facility that walked a very delicate line between flashy-enough-for-the-interactive-age but still-a-serious-place. What could it cost to keep the doors open on a place that was largely staffed by volunteers, that didn’t require huge upkeep, that gave the city a unique, prestigious attraction? Especially when you consider LFG paid millions to get its name on a goddamn football stadium, this is just plain old, lowdown shittiness.
Priscilla Brown’s late mother-in-law has her name on a beloved institution in the Fort, incidentally — a fine high-school natatorium. I wonder how she’d feel if that was closed, and the water distributed to the “largest possible audience.”
Gerald Prokopowicz, pal of NN.C and occasional visitor to the GP, had his own thoughts in yesterday’s News-Sentinel. (Aside: Another fine effort by my alma mater. They really kicked the Journal’s butt on this one.) As the former scholar-in-residence at the museum, he was the logical source to call. It was even more depressing to note that one reason attendance is down is, fewer schoolchildren are being brought through on field trips. And why is that?
Prokopowicz said fewer students are going on field trips to museums, and it’s a trend that’s occurring in places other than Fort Wayne. He blames it on two factors: standardized testing, which forces teachers to spend more time in the classroom, and higher gas prices.
Even in our fancy suburban district, it’s maddening to see how much classroom time is taken up with prepping for our state assessment tests. Now you see the chain reaction of keeping kids in the classroom when they could be in the Lincoln Museum.
So let’s change the tone with some upbeat bloggage, eh? Via Ashley, some news on Jill Sobule, best known for writing and performing that lesbian theme song. I saw her open for Warren Zevon in 1996, and she was fabulous — funny and ironic and all that. She won my heart with “Kathie Lee,” her song about her secret affair with Frank Gifford’s wife. Like lots of hardscrabble artists, she came out during the break to sell CDs. We had a little chat, and she was as charming one-on-one as she was onstage. (In case any of you filthy pervs are thinking there was some sort of zing! there, let me put your minds at rest: I was 8.5 months pregnant at the time, and unless she’s into fat girls in jumpers and clogs and wedding rings embedded in their swollen fingers, you are wrong.)
Anyway, it appears Jill is no longer under contract with a record company, and has gone unilateral to raise money for her next one. She’s set up a website where you can give, with some creative fundraising steps. It starts at $10, which gets you a free digital download, and ends….
$10,000 – Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level: You get to come and sing on my CD. Don’t worry if you can’t sing – we can fix that on our end. Also, you can always play the cowbell.
I’m thinking I may go in at the get-your-name-in-the-liner-notes level. I want to leave cryptic footprints for my ancestors, so they can fight over the Thanksgiving table about whether I swung both ways.
Today’s only-in-Detroit story: Man comes home after alarm service tells him there’s been a break-in. Enters the house, looks around, realizes the burglars are still in the house. So he slips into a bedroom and calls 911 in a whisper. The police arrived…three hours later. He finally had to call his councilwoman, who called the police chief, who was able to rustle up a prowler. Best single detail:
He even tried the Northwestern District police station directly, but said he was told officers weren’t available because they were in the middle of a shift change.
In the New York magazine story about heroin tycoon Frank Lucas, which was the basis for the “American Gangster” screenplay, Lucas talks about the wonders of the shift change:
We put (the dope) out there at four in the afternoon, when the cops changed shifts. That gave you a couple of hours before those lazy bastards got down there. My buyers, though, you could set your watch by them. By four o’clock, we had enough niggers in the street to make a Tarzan movie. They had to reroute the bus on Eighth Avenue. Call the Transit Department if it’s not so. By nine o’clock, I ain’t got a fucking gram. Everything is gone. Sold . . . and I got myself a million dollars.
If only we could harness those powers for good.
OK, that’s enough for today. Have a good one. I’m off to enjoy what appears to be Steamboat Springs outside my window. Minus the mountains.