June 9, 2015

A dramatic end to the search for the Boston Public Library art prints


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Amy Ryan may have found the missing prints, but she still lost her job as the Boston Public Library President.

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about how two valuable art prints were missing from the collection at the Boston Public Library, with the detectives and law enforcement on the case. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time that a collection mistake was made at that institution.

In a city famous for the Isabella Gardner Museum art heist, thoughts turned sinister. Could thieves have taken the art? Was it an inside job?

Turns out, the prints were only misplaced, and the BPL found them… drumroll please…. in the library.

In a press release, the library thanked the FBI, Boston Police Department, and US Attorney’s Office for their search efforts, and described how the prints were discovered:

The Rembrandt and Dürer were found together in Row 14B, Bay 3 on Shelf 2, approximately 80 feet from where the items should have been filed.  Fourteen 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), totaling 38 rows of the 60 rows of print stacks, or about 60% of the inventory. Nine offices, work rooms, and reading rooms had also been searched. The Dürer and Rembrandt have been refiled.

But alas, the discovery could not save the job of Amy Ryan, the Boston Public Library President who resigned from her $193,000-a-year job the day before the prints were found. While she wasn’t even aware that they were missing until this spring (staff discovered this fact over a year ago)—she took the fall. The New York Times reported this week that “while much of Boston said the discovery had vindicated Ms. Ryan and said she should be reinstated, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the only person who matters, did not.”

A Boston Globe column called Mayor Walsh and his chief of staff Dan Koh as “baying bloodhounds” in pursuit of justice and a desire for Amy Ryan to leave her position. In addition, three investigations of the Boston Public Library —“by the Boston Police Department, the United States attorney’s office and the F.B.I.—are proceeding despite the discovery of the art pieces.”


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.