Thursday, October 6, 2011

Historical Documents Returned to UVM - Documents Linked to Indicted Pair - Library Loss Prevention Recommended

The University of Vermont (UVM) has recovered historical documents that disappeared from its library. The Burlington Free Press reports on October 4, 2011 that 67 documents were returned to UVM after officials at the National Archives in Washington, DC reported that they had the papers in their possession. “The papers were found after investigators recovered hundreds of items from Barry Landau, 63, who with Jason Savedoff, 24, is accused of conspiring to steal rare documents to sell at a profit, according to government allegations,” the Burlingotn Free Press writes. Source:

A federal grand jury in Maryland handed up a two count indictment on July 28, 2011 against the pair, charging them with Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Major Artwork and Theft of Major Artwork. The indictment alleges that the co-defendants stole from the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. The indictment also asserts that they took dozens of items in order to sell, including historical documents of FDR, a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones, and a land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln. An indictment is not a finding of guilt.

In order to secure a conviction of Theft of Major Artwork under 18 USC 668, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants “did steal and obtain by fraud from the care, custody, and control of a museum objects of cultural heritage.” An object of “cultural heritage” is defined by law as one that is under 100 years old and valued at $100,000 or more or an object that is over 100 years old and valued at $5000 or more.

The latest development in the case is a petition filed by Landau to sell assets. The motion, filed on September 23, 2011, asks the court for permission to sell antiques, letters, jewelry, art (including two Andy Warhol prints) so that Landau can raise money to pay for day-to-day expenses. Landau is under court order to not to sell assets without judicial authorization. See a further update on this recent filing at

10/25/11 UPDATE: The court granted Landau's motion .

One inexpensive way to help prevent the loss of irreplaceable documents is to maintain historic documents in closed stacks. When a patron requests particular information, a librarian or staff member can obtain the materials in limited quantities (such as three items at a time) and place them at the patron’s table. Some institutions may feel comfortable asking for the patron’s ID, some may not. Regardless, a librarian or staff member should always be visible to the patron and should retrieve the items when the patron is finished, making an inventory of the items. A process like this one can be part of an effective loss-prevention program because it compels a patron to interact with a librarian or staff member directly so that the patron knows he or she has been identified, allows for the librarian or staff member to observe the patron for any signs of suspicion, permits the institution to control the quantity of materials provided to a patron at any one time, and allows for a librarian or staff member to ensure that the materials retrieved are the same ones returned. There are other methods that a certified insitutional risk management consultant can suggest.

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