Sarah Heim is the Assistant Director of Research Services at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. She holds an MLS and a MA in History from the University of Maryland – College Park, and a BA in History from Lawrence University (Appleton, WI).
ABA: In a few sentences, tell us what you’ll be presenting at ABA.
SH: I’ll give a brief summary of how (as I understand it) the infamous manuscript thieves Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff stole literally thousands of manuscripts from at least half a dozen libraries and archives (including, sadly, HSP), and how we’ve been responding to the loss and recovery of manuscripts. I’ll finish by recommending some resources other archivists can use to implement and improve security procedures in their institutions.
ABA: What do you hope audiences will get from your talk?
SH: Some gasps, some laughs, an enlarged perspective on security in archives, and some ideas on where to go to learn more on the subject.
ABA: What is the most interesting archives-related thing you’ve read or seen recently?
SH: An account by Samuel Morse Felton, President of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore RR during the Civil War, of how the Pinkerton detectives he hired to protect his trains from secessionist sabotage discovered a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. (Finding aid to the Felton papers available here: http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/f/Felton1151.html)
ABA: On a scale from 1 – 10, (10 being hardest) how easy would it be for other archivists to implement the project you’re presenting here?
SH: I would rate the difficulty at 3. While there are expensive and logistically challenging things that can be done to aid security in archives, the biggest single factor in limiting theft is having archivists and other staff who are aware of the risk. The awareness doesn’t cost any money, though gaining it can be unsettling or even upsetting.