The Chicago Historical Society and the University of Illinois at Chicago hosted a conference of historians, forensic scientists, and preservation staff in June 1999 to consider authentication of Mary Todd Lincoln's cloak.

Conference attendees addressed the purpose of investigating the Lincoln assassination relics, their provenance, forensic sampling and testing techniques, and ethical considerations.

Chicago Historical Society conference attendees in the textile conservation laboratory, June 1999.
Artifact examination in the textile conservation laboratory.

DNA analysis of the artifacts is not recommended at present. Current sampling techniques would damage the artifacts and there is no established Lincoln genetic profile available for comparison. The panelists voiced strong support for integrated historical and nondestructive scientific studies that could lead to future DNA analysis. Investigators hope to identify less destructive DNA extraction techniques and locate a Lincoln genetic profile. Most importantly, collaborative research will promote new applications of scientific tools for historical research.

You are invited to join the investigative team exploring the Lincoln relics!

Examine the artifacts through the scientists' lens. The investigators welcome information on Lincoln assassination relics in other collections. Perhaps you can supply genealogical information on relatives of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the president's mother. You will also have an opportunity to evaluate the evidence and e-mail your conclusions to the investigators. Ongoing discoveries will be regularly posted to this web site.

Project investigators examine artifacts under the microscope in the textile conservation laboratory.
The participants agreed to participate in a collaborative research project to evaluate the authenticity of the cloak and related assassination relics.
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