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'Simply Misfiled': Boston Public Library Locates 2 Works Valued At $600,000

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The search is over.

Under intense scrutiny, the Boston Public Library on Thursday found two missing prints that together are valued at more than $600,000.

“We’re thrilled to have found these treasures right here at home," BPL President Amy Ryan said in a celebratory statement announcing the end of the search. "They were found safe and sound, simply misfiled."

The prints — an 8-by-11-inch 1504 Albrecht Dürer engraving valued at $600,000 and a 5-by-6-inch 1634 Rembrandt etching valued at $20,000 to $30,000 — were found a day after Ryan, who had been under fire following the disclosure of the missing works, announced her resignation.

The BPL statement included a photo of a smiling Ryan holding the Dürer next to library conservation officer Lauren Schott, who found the works, holding the Rembrandt self-portrait.

The two works were found together in the Print Collection, according to the statement, “approximately 80 feet from where the items should have been filed.”

In an interview with WBUR, Schott talked about finding one of the works.

"I saw Rembrandt's face and I was like, 'Is this the Rembrandt? There are lots of prints of Rembrandt. This might be it,' " she said. "So I had someone come and confirm."

In an email to WBUR's ARTery, a library spokeswoman said the two works are usually not stored together.

"We believe the prints were likely taken out and shared at the same time, and then were misfiled," spokeswoman Melina Schuler said.

The library disclosed last month that the two works were missing and that they had notified authorities. Library officials were unsure when exactly the works went missing. Boston police and the FBI began investigating, but Ryan maintained that she hoped the works were misfiled.

The Copley Square main branch of the Boston Public Library is seen on Thursday -- the same day the missing prints were recovered. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Copley Square main branch of the Boston Public Library is seen on Thursday -- the same day the missing prints were recovered. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The library's collection of prints is extensive — about 200,000 items. According to the statement, in recent weeks "[14] staff members searched 180,000 of the print stack’s 320,000 items (including 200,000 prints and drawings in the Print Collection and 120,000 chromolithographs)."

After the two prints were revealed as missing, a former library employee reported the possible loss of gold coins. And Wednesday, before she announced her resignation, Ryan said the library was investigating the possibility that pages from a music manuscript are also missing.

These disclosures only ratcheted up the pressure on library leadership.

Ryan did not mention her resignation in Thursday's statement, but she told WBUR the works' recovery does not change her plan to step down.

As to whether she would have resigned if they had found the works earlier, Ryan said: "I just can't speculate. It was a course of events. I'm just so glad that we found the missing pieces. It really lifts a cloud from our team."

She added that the team is still searching for the possibly missing gold coins and music pages. And in her statement she said the "BPL is still committed to enhanced security and a full inventory."

The Dürer and the Rembrandt have been refiled, the library said.

As we reported last month, the Print Department’s collections are stored in alarmed areas of the BPL’s central branch in Copley Square.

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.

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