Root painting in need of restoration

This is the 1917 painting by Robert Root that hangs in the Shelby County courthouse. File photo.

The 1917 Robert Root painting depicting the Lincoln-Thornton debate, which hangs in the Shelby County courthouse, is in need of preservation or restoration.

Plastic now covers the 102-year-old painting as construction has made the roof leak. Shelby County Sheriff Don Koonce brought this to the attention of the school board members, since the district officially owns the painting.

The school district owns the Root painting, but it is on loan to the Shelby County Bar Association.

An expert from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum came to view the painting and believed it needed restoration work. Experts offered to do the work on the painting only if the school board donates the painting to the library in Springfield.

Denise Bence, the superintendent of the Shelbyville School District, said the board has more questions than answers at this time.

"I believe it belongs to the whole community," she said about the Root painting.

No decisions will be made any time soon, Bence said.

"We need to just make sure we can preserve it and see how much that is going to cost," Bence said.

She said there will more than likely be a public hearing in the near future to get public input on the matter. If the school decides to restore the painting, that will be used with taxpayers' dollars, so the input from them is necessary and important.

Bence said the board plans to have other third-party experts come in to inspect the painting in order to get more information.

Grants could be available to apply for after the government shutdown ends, Bence said, so that is another option available.

"It's really the community's painting," she said. "We're not making any decisions any time soon."

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at or 217-774-2161 etc. 1.

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