Wednesday 8 February 2012

Public Archivalia Go Missing in USA

It has been reported (') that:

Barry H. Landau, 63, of New York, N.Y., pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and theft of historical documents from museums in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut and selling selected documents for profit. [...] According to his plea agreement, from December 2010 through July 2011, Landau and his co-conspirator, Jason Savedoff, stole and otherwise fraudulently obtained valuable documents and manuscripts from numerous museums, including the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, the University of Vermont, the New York Historical Society and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, a component of the National Archives. Landau and Savedoff targeted the document and manuscript collections at these museums based on the content of the collections or the potential monetary value of the contents.[...] Landau and Savedoff visited numerous museums posing as researchers, accessed collections of documents which they had [previously] determined to be of significant value, reviewed the documents from the collections and used various techniques to steal documents. [...] Documents that had been copied on microfilm were often avoided because of the increased possibility the theft would be discovered by the library or repository [...] On July 12, 2011, a search was conducted at Landau’s residence in New York City. A second search was conducted on Aug. 2, 2011. More than 10,000 documents and objects of cultural heritage were recovered during the search. To date, more than 4,000 of these items have been traced as being stolen from libraries and repositories throughout the United States...

So there are items in US public collections that have not been recorded in a form allowing theft to be determined? This case is so ironic in the context of this blog because of the number of times US dealers and collectors castigate foreign museums over the losses that have taken place - and yet their blogs are entirely silent when the same problems affect US museum collections and archives. Here's a case where, among other things, seven reading copies of speeches delivered by President Roosevelt were stolen as were documents in the hand of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and yet to date not a peep about this in such blogs as "Cultural property Observer". Remember, it was blogged here first folks, the others are concerned to present a wholly different picture of the world or private collecting in the US and its wider context.

Landau and Savedoff face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and 10 years in prison for theft of the documents. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for Landau on May 7, 2012, at 10:00 a.m.
FBI, 'New York Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Valuable Historical Documents', February 07, 2012.

Adam Clark Estes, 'Barry H. Landau: Cupcake Enthusiast, Alleged Paper Purloiner',The Atlantic Wire Jul 13, 2011

Vignette: Landau

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