Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Researcher Gone Wild: Scholar Admits Doctoring Document

The National Archives announced on Monday afternoon that amateur historian Thomas Lowry had confessed to altering an Abraham Lincoln document in NARA's collections, changing the date on a pardon from April 14, 1864 to April 14, 1865 (the day Lincoln was assassinated). Lowry "discovered" the pardon in the late 1990s, and published a book about it in 1999 (Don't Shoot That Boy: Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice).

Kudos to archivist Trevor Plante, who grew suspicious of the date as written and brought it to the attention of the NARA inspector general, and to the investigative archivists who followed up on the hunch and interviewed Lowry. During the course of that conversation, Lowry admitted having brought a pen into the archives and altering the date.

In an interview with the NYTimes, Lowry denied making the alteration.

Unfortunately the statute of limitations on this crime has expired, so Lowry can't be prosecuted, but he's been banned from NARA facilities, and I certainly hope other research institutions will follow suit. There's a special place in hell for people who do things like this.

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