Artifact enthusiast caught stealing documents from historical society

December 5, 2012

New York City resident Barry Landau was caught stealing documents from the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore in 2011. When further investigation took place, officials found that Landau had stolen over $1 million worth of artifacts and documents from a number of museums and historical societies since 2003.

While the documents stolen were not “typical” documents – such as letters from Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens – the fact that Landau was able to successfully steal and hide the important historical documents for almost 10 years proves the vulnerability of paper, and stresses the importance of digitizing documents through professional data scanning services for stronger security.

Landau was stealing documents by disguising himself in an altered blazer and trench coat, and, along with a partner, would often distract museum employees so they could achieve better access, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The pair would also remove card catalog listings in attempts to cover their tracks, stealing from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the New York Historical Society and the University of Vermont, among others.

Some of the stolen documents include speeches by FDR, photos of Calvin Coolidge and a land grant signed by Abraham Lincoln. Of the $1 million worth of documents stolen, $46,000 worth had been sold by Landau.

Barry Landau received seven years in prison for his crimes, and will likely receive another three years of probation when he is out, according to the news source.

It is unknown if all the important historical documents have been recovered, and it is possible there will always be some documents missing. However, this story presents a large lesson to businesses on the vulnerability of paper documents, even if the physical paper is not as valuable as historical documents. By digitizing documents through bulk scanning services, offices can be rest assured that documents, and the confidential information they contain, will be protected.