Stealing from the National Archives

Tom Rowland once told me how difficult his research was in the federally-held McClellan papers, those documents having become severely disorganized.

What brought this to mind was Ethan Rafuse's heavy citations of the microfilm edition of GBM's papers in his new book, McClellan's War (more on which next week). I think this means we passed the point where the actual source documents can even be used.

Today brings news of the sentencing of a thief who has systematically been stealing ACW materials from the National Archives and selling them on eBay. And how was he found out? By an alert researcher on eBay, not by the National Archives.

The National Museum of Iraq watches eBay attentively and works with law enforcement to arrest sellers. The National Archives, meanwhile, seems to busy itself with other matters.

How much history has been lost this way?

The price this man will pay for his crimes is just two years in prison. I view that as a deep cultural statement, the government commenting through its courts on the value it places on this nation's history.