The Rolland Center for Lincoln Research

The Allen County Public Library is partnering with the Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana to create the Rolland Center for Lincoln Research.  The Center is scheduled to open April 2021 in the Main Library and will highlight the thousands of amazing items in the Lincoln Collection that are currently housed and curated by ACPL.  These include original photographs of Abraham Lincoln, his family, Cabinet members, and generals; letters and documents to and from Lincoln; diaries of Civil War soldiers; and so much more.  The Collection is currently located in the lower levels of the Main Library. 

The Center will also incorporate an expert-in-residence program.  That expert may be a scholar, artist, or someone else who works with the materials in the Collection to further an understanding of Lincoln.

There are four points that serve as the North Star for the Rolland Center, guiding the project team members as they work through the planning and construction process.

  1. Connect people to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.
  2. Display and bring to life this incomparable collection of Lincoln materials.
  3. Deliver a 21st century engaging experience.
  4. Make the Center a destination for people inside and outside of our community.

ACPL has two Lincoln Librarians on staff.  Those librarians have begun the process of organizing the materials and developing storylines for the exhibit.  They will focus on the following themes:

  • Lincoln overview
  • Lincoln family album
  • Lawyer & legislator
  • Elections
  • Commander-in-Chief
  • Slavery/Emancipation Proclamation
Ian Rolland with Lincoln

These themes will be expanded upon through a combination of the physical items in the Lincoln Collection and digital interactive displays.  This will not be a typical museum experience.  Instead, we will use technology in such a way that individuals of varying abilities, ages, and knowledge levels will be able to fully engage with the Collection. 

The Center will be located in the Great Hall near the Plaza entrance.  It will use the space currently known as Bays 2 and 3, and will extend a bit into Readers’ Services. 

The entire project is being funded by the Friends of the Lincoln Collection.  ACPL will not be responsible for costs related to construction, technology, etc.  Construction will begin late November or December, with the Center scheduled to open in April 2021. 

We will continue to share updates about the Rolland Center as we move forward in the process.  We hope you share our excitement for this project and the new opportunity it provides to enrich our community through lifelong learning and discovery.

Rolland Center Great Hall image 1
Rolland Center Great Hall image 2
Rolland Center Great Hall image 3

When does construction start?

Late November or December 2020

Will the displays be touch interactive, or 'touchless' like our self-checkouts right now?

As we plan the Center and its displays, we are very aware of the public health crisis.  We are investigating options for touchless technology, ways to interact with the displays using your personal devices, and how to safely clean and sanitize the displays. 

How many items might be on display on any given day?

Visitors will be able to interact with almost 1,000 items digitally.  They will also be able to view 150-200 physical items from the Collection, a much greater number than currently available to view on the Lower Levels.

Is there a map of the Main Library’s first floor so I can better visualize the footprint of the new space?

ACPL’s website contains a link to a 360-degree tour of the Main Library.  The tool includes dollhouse views of the branch and its various areas.  This will assist you in gaining a better understanding of the Rolland Center’s location within the Great Hall.

How many people will you be able to accommodate in a single group/tour?

Though the layout is being finalized, we believe we can accommodate up to 50 people in the space at any given time.

How did you do the "readings" of the items in the Collection that feature challenging handwriting? Did the two Lincoln Librarians read them?

The Lincoln Collection is lucky enough to have both staff and volunteers who are quite skilled at deciphering handwriting.  They have enough developed style guides for many of the historic figures to assist in the process.

What is the plan for the first bay area that will not be used for the Rolland Center?

The plans for that area are being developed by the Public Services team.  Once we have further details, those will be shared with staff and library users. 

What will be the impact on materials in Readers’ Services?

Public Services will shift four sections of shelving to accommodate the Rolland Center’s footprint.  Materials that are not used as frequently, such as bound periodicals, will be moved to Storage.  Items that are outdated or in bad condition may be removed from the collection, in accordance with ACPL policies and procedures. 

Is there a schedule of visiting scholars/artists yet?

A schedule has not yet been developed.  The Rolland Center’s experts-in-residence will fall into different categories:  scholars, students, artists of all types.  What they all have in common is that their work will advance their understanding – and ours – of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.