Two prints, one by Albrecht Durer (an Adam and Eve engraving) and another by Rembrandt (a self-portrait), were stolen from the Boston Public Library approximately a month ago, library officials recently announced. The two works were on paper, and measured 8×11″ and 5×6″ respectively–the perfect size for a thief to fold up and hide on his/her person. The works were in storage and were not on display, although they were available to the public. You can read the story at the Boston Globe.
It is a sad discovery for a city where the thefts of the works from the Gardner museum are felt sorely. Employees at the Boston Public Library are now going through the entire print collection, some 200,000+ works, to make sure that nothing else is missing and to update its records.
This theft serves as a reminder to all museums and cultural institutions of the importance of maintaining a complete and up-to-date record of their collections. In the face of limited budgets, it is difficult to find the resources to properly catalogue a collection, not to mention regularly do an inventory to make sure that everything is where it is supposed to be. But without an accurate catalogue and regular inventories, a theft can go unnoticed for months, if not years–long after all evidence of who might have committed the theft has disappeared.
The moral of the story? Keep accurate records and check them frequently.