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The Boston Public Library Is Missing Rembrandt And Dürer Artworks

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The Boston Public Library says it will assess its security protocols as it works to locate two missing prints valued together at more than $600,000.

The library said in a statement Wednesday evening that an 8-by-11-inch 1504 Albrecht Dürer engraving, valued at $600,000, was discovered missing on April 8 and may have been missing "for the last several months."

On April 15, as the library conducted an internal search for the Dürer, a  5-by-6-inch 1634 Rembrandt etching, valued at $20,000 to $30,000, was also found to be missing.

Albrecht Dürer's "The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve)" (via Wikimedia Commons)
Albrecht Dürer's "The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve)" (via Wikimedia Commons)

While a police report was not filed until April 29, the BPL says its president, Amy Ryan, notified Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans that the two prints were missing on April 15. Boston media outlets first reported on the missing works late Tuesday.

"It is our hope that these two significant pieces have simply been misfiled," Ryan said in an earlier statement Wednesday. "The curators and department staff are currently conducting a detailed search of the collection, and we are working with the Boston Police Department to determine if there is the possibility of criminal activity."

As police investigate, the library says it will bring in an independent firm to review its security protocols.

Rembrandt's "Self Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre" (via Wikimedia Commons)
Rembrandt's "Self Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre" (via Wikimedia Commons)

“It is always a balance to fulfill our obligation to make collections open to the public to study and enjoy, while preserving them and keeping them secure,” Ryan added in the statement.

The library says the Print Department's collections are stored in alarmed areas of the BPL's central branch in Copley Square. According to the library, items in the collection can only be viewed in the Rare Books Reading Room, and appointments to view the items must be set up in advance.

The library says before the prints were reported missing it was already working with an outside consultant to "organize, catalogue, inventory, and recommend processes to allow better security and control over" its more than 1.3 million Print Department holdings. The library does not have an estimated value for all of the holdings because it says they are not assessed when BPL receives them.

Speaking Wednesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for a review of security at the library.

“We’re not talking about misplacing a set of keys,” he told reporters. “We’re talking about a rare piece of art that’s worth $600,000. You shouldn’t be misplacing a piece of art like that.”

A spokesperson for the FBI confirmed to WBUR that the agency is “assisting” in the investigation.

This article was originally published on May 20, 2015.

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