Drew Archive Thief Pleads Guilty

As some of you may remember, William Scott, a Drew University student, was accused of stealing rare Methodist and presidential letters from the United Methodist Archives Center in March of last year. Yesterday, he pleaded guilty in a United States District Court, and sentencing will occur on April 15. 

Scott was working part-time in the archives, when he was tempted to bring some of the treasures back to his dorm room, and from there, sell them to book dealers here and abroad. My original post on this case expressed utter shock, because of the crime, of course, but also because Drew is my graduate alma mater, and I worked in the library and university archives there for several years. 

When I was on campus again last month, I did ask about the state of the case and was told that things were still in the works, and no news was being shared. I learned that all but one stolen document had been recovered, and the press release issued today states that that document is the second page of a Charles Wesley letter from 1755 (they do have a scan, seen here at left).

The silver lining in this story is that Drew has implemented security changes that will hopefully ensure no further incidents. But that doesn't mean restricting access to originals -- Dr. Andrew Scrimgeour, dean of the library, makes a point worth sharing, "...The care of special material is an essential trust, but it should not preclude the singular delight that only comes in working with the special volume--seeing its size, feeling its heft, turning the pages, smelling its aroma, inspecting the watermarks, reveling in the binding, illustrations, and illumination, and enjoying the perfection of ink on paper. That experience should remain the hallmark of special collections of Drew University."