insider thefts in libraries

[EXLIBRIS:30026] Re: Library theft


To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Subject: [EXLIBRIS:30026] Re: Library theft
From: “Museum Security Network / Cultural Property Protection Net (Ton Cremers)” <>
Date: Thu, 5 May 2005 23:08:57 -0700 (PDT)
Message-id: <>


Interesting thread about these historical thefts from libraries. However
there is also recent history and thefts from libraries by staff members. Is
this something you can discuss in your institutions or do most of you make
the same mistake: we do trust our peers? There is nothing against trusting
people with whom you are working. Life would be most unpleasant if you
cannot trust those with whom you are working. A more important question: do
you trust your system?

Yet, discussing the possibility of inside jobs should be discussed in all
your institutions. The text below might be of assistance starting this

Thefts by library workers the past two years:

– Alexander Polman, curator at the army museum in Delft, The Netherlands,
has been stealing prints, books, and paintings from the museum’s collection
during the six years he worked in that institution. All together over 1.000
prints are missing, hundreds of books have been severely damaged, and some
20 paintings are missing. This guy only admitted thefts that we could proof
within any doubt. He was not, and still is not of any assistance finding
stolen collection items back.

– Stealing Curator at the National Library in Paris, France. Michel Garel
had been working at the National library for 30 years when he was arrested
last year for stealing a very valuable 13th century manuscript. Mr. Garel
was an internationally esteemed specialist on Hebrew manuscript and author
of several publications. Next to his work he was very active in an
international children organization. The manuscript, called manuscript
number 52, was sold by Garel to a dealer, and Mr Garel himself signed a
permit to allow this manuscript to leave France. To make sure that the
manuscript would not be recognized the stamps were removed, pages were taken
out and borders were cut. These changes to the manuscript were seemingly
made by a professional hand, so it is very well possible that Mr. Garel was
helped by someone unknown yet. In the mean time MrGarel has withdrawn his
initial confession. Mr Garel now is blaming the Library’s chaotic
organization and claims that works have disappeared for decades ever since
the second world war. The good faith buyer of this manuscript sold it at a
Christie’s auction in New York to another buyer who took the manuscript to
Jerusalem. In spite of the changes made to the manuscript it was recognized
by a scholar in Jerusalem who warned the French national library. This led
to the arrest of Mr Garel and his wife who was regarded accomplice in the
theft of at least 5 valuable manuscripts. Mr Garel’s wife to is an esteemed
scholar, specialized in Coptic writings. Already a few years it was known
that books and manuscripts had disappeared from the Hebrew collection at the
National Library but no real action was taken. When the library was moved
from it’s old location to the new Francois-Mitterand Library it appeared
that hundreds of documents were missing.
The present owner of the valuable 13th century manuscript bought it at
Christie’s for 300.000,00 US dollars, and is willing to sell it for that
price to the National Library.

– The trustees of Belle W. Baruch Foundation are considering their next move
in recovering some $1 million in missing artwork now that the case has been
closed by authorities. Former foundation curator Samuel McIntosh pleaded no
contest to two counts and was sentenced to serve three years of probation.
That ended the state’s case because attempts to find the art and press
further charges were fruitless. McIntosh worked at Hobcaw Barony, former
vacation home of financier Bernard Baruch, for 12 years.
His contract was not renewed last year, and on his last day at work July 31,
he reported that 11 major pieces of art were missing. McIntosh called the
Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, saying someone stole the items during
the night.
The foundation staff later discovered 21 additional pieces were missing.
The art includes original Audubon prints, as well as paintings by landscape
artist Louis Aston Knight and sporting artist A.J. Munnings.

– A former employee at the Kenyon College library in Gambier, Ohio, has
pleaded guilty to stealing more than $50,000 in rare books and documents
from the collection over a two-year period and selling them on Ebay.
David Breithaupt and his girlfriend, Christa Hupp, were charged with selling
50 items for a total of $26,000. The highest take came from a 16th-century
copy of Ptolemy’s Almagest, which brought $4,750; its replacement cost is
Although Breithaupt’s job as a night supervisor did not include access to
the special collections, he persuaded custodians and other staff to let him
into the area.
As part of a plea bargain Breithaupt agreed to help the library locate some
of the stolen works. Last year the college won a $1-million judgment against
Breithaupt and Hupp, but has yet to receive any of the money.

– The Danish Royal library managed to recover 75 boxes with books from the
home of a former employee. This employee died of cancer two years ago and
his wife and son sold several books at auction. The librarian retired 2000
and he started to sell books through Christie’s in London and Swann in New
York. Both his wife and son stated that they were not aware that the books
they tried to sell originated from theft.
In total 80 books or manuscripts were put on the market via these auction
houses, for the equivalent of 1,50 million dollars.  The defendants also
sold some 600 works by other channels.

– Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of irreplaceable artifacts are
missing from the National Archives- either stolen or lost.
Handwritten letters written by Ulysses S. Grant, a photo of President Ronald
Reagan with Margaret Thatcher and a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt are
just some of the historic artifacts that have disappeared.
Dozens of presidential pardons also have disappeared. Archives records show
the presidential pardons are just a fraction of what one career National
Archive employee was able to steal and sell for more than $200,000.
One of the documents found its way on to eBay. The employee involved pleaded
guilty and much of what he stole was recovered.
The Office of the Inspector General for the National Archives and Records
Administration says a missing painting of FDR could be in a landfill
somewhere. It may have been inadvertently thrown away.
The report by the inspector general also says one missing artifact is
believed to have been purchased by an unnamed city’s mayor and put on
display in city hall.
The inside job and specific that the thieves share:

The thieves

– most of the time internal thieves have a long time working
relationship with the institution they work for, varying from some 10 tot
over 30 years.
– they are very well trusted and in independent positions. This goes
with the specific profession of curators and librarians. Very often they are
responsible for the acquisition of new collection items, they are recipients
of donations, they are responsible for registration and they have unlimited
access to depositories.
– These thieves are very valued experts in their profession and
therefore beyond any suspicion. The librarian of the French national Library
who was arrested last year was an international renowned expert of Hebrew
manuscripts, and his wife – also arrested – was an expert in Coptic texts
and manuscripts. The Danish librarian who was unmasked posthumously last
year, was as a long term employee beyond any suspicion.
– Internal thieves play an important social role. They participate in
trade union negotiations, and perform an important role in the professional
or private community. The curator of the Army Museum in Delft was very
active in trade unions, and the French librarian was a well known benefactor
of an international children organization.
– These thieves really are the least expected people to be thieves of
the collection in the institute they work for,
– they even participate very actively in solving the thefts; both in
Delft, The Netherlands, and in Paris France the thieves very actively
participated in solving the crimes. In Delft this participation was so
transparent hat it finally led to the arrest of the curator.
– Internal thieves really abuse privileged positions. It goes with the
job of curators and librarians that they have almost unlimited access to the
collection and its registration and that they are able to erase tracks that
may lead to their disguise.
– when unmasked the institution gets the blame and peers are being
accused of stealing as well. The lawyer of the Delft curator defended his
client by stating that removing collection items from the library and museum
almost was daily practice in the museum, and that his client now seemed to
receive the blame for the museum’s chaotic organization.
The Thefts

– Internal thefts may continue for many years; The Army Museum curator
has been stealing from the collection for over seven years, removing maybe
over two thousands prints, hundreds of books and most likely some 20
paintings. Since some three years before his arrest he has been responsible
for accepting donations. The museum used to receive some 40 donations of
collections items per year. During his reign in the museum there were only
very few donations. We managed to find several letters in which donators
were being thanked for their gifts. However, the gifts themselves never
reached the museum.
– The number of stolen items can be very vast. At the Army Museum
curator’s neighbor we found a small museum of items stolen from the museum.
In Copenhagen some 60 wooden boxes with stolen books were removed from the
house of a stealing librarian. The National Library misses over 120 valuable
manuscripts. It is not clear whether the arrested librarian is responsible
for these manuscripts gone astray.
– It may take years before internal thefts are discovered. The thefts
in Copenhagen were not discovered until after the death of the stealing
librarian when his wife and son tried to sell stolen items trough auction.
– Internal thefts never are expected to take place in one’s own
museum, library or archive, and sometimes for very long periods staff
members remain convinced that missing items may be misplaced and not stolen.
Internal theft is a very difficult phenomenon to deal with. Interviewing
many museum directors in Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium the past few
months we were always confronted with the same reaction: I do trust my
staff, and we cannot check their actions for that would be a sign of
distrust, so they say. We always try to explain that trust should be based
on the system and not on individual staff. There is really nothing against
random or even daily checks of staff leaving the premises like are done at
the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
– It appears quite easy to sell stolen books and prints to ‘reputable’
dealers, via auction houses or E-bay. The Army Museum curator has been
selling stolen books and prints to the same antiquarian book and print
dealer for some six years. The librarian of the French National Library sold
the items he stole through dealers and private collectors in France. Finally
a very unique stolen Hebrew manuscript was sold through Christie’s in New
York to a good faith buyer for 300.000 dollars, and the national library now
has only one option left: put up the money to buy it back.
Ton Cremers
+31 6 24224620
Museum Security Network
Archive Cultural Property Protection
Archive Museum Security Network


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