Student steals rare Wesley letters

Today I am shocked to learn that a Drew University student is accused of stealing several historic letters from Drew University. Not only is Drew my graduate alma mater, but I worked in the preservation department and university archives for a number of years. I know those collections, those vaults, those librarians, and I am aghast.

According to yesterday's New York Times, the student, a freshman named William John Scott, had a part-time job in the archives when he began stealing letters. An antiques dealer in England alerted library officials after he bought ten Charles and John Wesley letters from the student and was suspicious of the way the delicate letters had been packaged and mailed. Scott was arrested on Sunday, after the F.B.I. found more stolen documents in his dorm room, including letters from Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon.

What is unclear from the NYT report is that the student did not work in the university archives; he worked in the Methodist Archives. At Drew, there is the Library, which houses the university archives and special collections, and then there is a separate structure, the United Methodist Archives Center, that holds the records of the Methodist Church as well as related rare and historical collections. In any case, the student was given a key to a locked special collections room, which, unfortunately, raises a BIG security question. The press release issued by the university is brief.