The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Boston Public Library found more than $600,000 worth of art that had gone missing

You know how sometimes you have hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of artwork lying around your public library, but you move one thing, and then you move another, and then you check your phone because you thought it vibrated but it really didn’t, and the next thing you know, the art has gone missing and it becomes a big scandal and the police and FBI get involved?

Well, funny story (assuming you like stories about missing artwork and library scandals): The prints were found inside the library, about 80 feet away from where they were supposed to be.

The Boston Public Library told the city’s police department in April that it was missing two pricey works: an engraving called “Adam and Eve” by Albrecht Dürer and an etching by Rembrandt van Rijn.

The Dürer work is valued at about $600,000, according to the library, while the Rembrandt self-portrait is valued at $20,000 to $30,000.

When a book disappears from the library, people don’t make that much of a fuss, but when works worth as much as $630,000 up and vanish, someone is going to ask a few questions. In this case, the “someone” was the Boston Police Department, as well as the FBI.

“We’re looking at the possibility of it being an inside job,” Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans told reporters last month, according to the Boston Globe.

Amy Ryan, president of the library, said last month that she first learned the Dürer work was missing on April 10. However, Ryan said in a statement that she also learned at the time that the engraving had been missing for nearly a year, which she called “a time gap of significant concern.”

An internal search was launched, and it led to library staff learning that the Rembrandt also was missing. Ryan said she was hopeful that the two prints had been misfiled but said there may have been a theft, so she contacted the police.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan announced her resignation, releasing a statement saying that she would step down in July “to allow the work of the Boston Public Library to continue without distraction.”

Before announcing her resignation, she had said at a special meeting of the library’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday that the library would create a new safety and security plan on top of some efforts it had already made to increase security in certain areas. She also said that an expert preservationist had begun to conduct an inventory of the library’s prints, drawings and chromolithographs.

About a day after saying she would resign, Ryan said the missing works had been found inside the library after all.

“We’re thrilled to have found these treasures right here at home,” she said in a statement Thursday. “They were found safe and sound, simply misfiled.”

Library officials said staff members had searched through 38 of 60 rows of print stacks before a conservation officer found them on a shelf about 80 feet from their proper place.

It is unclear whether Ryan still planned to resign in July as she had announced a day before the prints turned up. A library spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. [UPDATE: A spokeswoman says she will still resign next month.]