SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum announced he was stepping down Tuesday, less than a year after the museum celebrated its grand opening.
Richard Norton Smith submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In his letter, Smith said he was leaving to become a scholar in residence at George Mason University in Virginia.
"Richard poured his heart, energy and creativity into the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum complex and in a very real sense, he made it what it is today," Blagojevich said in a written statement.
Norton, a Massachusetts-born Harvard University graduate and well-known presidential scholar, joined the library and museum in May 2003 after stepping down as director of the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University. He came to KU in December 2001.
The library, which opened in October 2004, houses the world's largest collection of Lincoln documents and artifacts.
The museum portion of the $145 million complex in Springfield is geared toward the general public with its special effects and multimedia productions.
The museum's grand opening celebration, attended by President Bush, was designed as a kickoff to a number of Lincoln anniversaries, including the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009 and the 150th anniversary of his election in 2010.
"I am confident that my successors will build a world-class institution on the foundation that has been laid down, and that all eyes will be on Springfield in 2009, as humanity celebrates the life and legacy of Illinois' greatest son," Smith wrote in his resignation letter.