Yet another scandal involving alleged archival shenanigans

This one involves author and collector Barry Landau.  He and an accomplice named Jason Savedoff allegedly—allegedly, mind you—tried to steal millions of dollars’ worth of material from the Maryland Historical Society.  The Baltimore Sun has the details.

Here’s the really bad news:

Though [MHS President Burt] Kummerow said the society has been growing, it remains short on funds and staff. That puts it in a potentially vulnerable position as it allows access to its collection of 7 million documents contained within its library.

[Joseph M.] Coale, the former board member for the Maryland Historic Trust, said he doesn’t believe archives will be able to continue to allow access to original documents. “They don’t have the staff to do it, especially nowadays with societies more or less operating with skeleton crews,” he said.

But Kummerow says his staff is also not in a financial position to digitize its archives or provide photocopies of the volumes of material researchers may want to see.

Great.  Just great.

You know those signs in department store restrooms telling you that shoplifting messes with everybody, because it forces the store to jack up their prices?

Innocent until proven guilty…but if proven guilty, then under the jail with them.  Under the freaking jail.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Yet another scandal involving alleged archival shenanigans

  1. Ugh. I read about this on Simpson’s blog, but didn’t get into the details of the story.

    I certainly hope that the MHS can find a way through this, because closing or severely limiting access to the collection constitutes a fundamental breach of the whole idea behind such organizations.

    Years ago I did my thesis on a man, not long deceased at the time, who was a well-known businessman and community leader in that city. The thesis simply could not have been done without access to the local newspaper archives, which at that time were only indexed at the newspaper offices themselves. Not long after I’d completed my work, I read that there’d been a theft of materials from them, and so they were closing off all public access to the old newspapers and (more important) their index to them. The papers themselves were available on microfilm at the university, but there was no way to search them. I moved soon after, and don’t know how (or if) that impasse was resolved, but it was a hugely damaging turn of events for local history researchers.

    Yep. Under the damn jail.

  2. Michael Lynch

    Yeah, if people can’t access the material, then archives will basically be storage facilities.

    –ML

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