Howard A. Daniel III submitted these thoughts on the Library of Congress and some unfortunate book mutilation he discovered there.
Your recent item about Thomas Lowry being caught altering a document at the National Archives reminded me of another archive called the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC.
The LOC is a huge resource of numismatic information and I spent almost two years of Saturday mornings (and some other days if my wife would allow me) there back in the early 1980s looking in old books for numismatic information about Southeast Asia. It was a slow search from A to Z and each Saturday I had to return the books back to the librarian and retrieve them the next Saturday. Some books were not available because someone else would check them out before me, so I had to wait a week or more to see them again.
One of the young librarians, Will Tuchrello, in the South Asia department (which has Southeast Asia), saw that I was a serious researcher and he found a desk for me in a "researchers" room so I did not have to be out in the reading room. I also had a place to store a heavy bag of nickels which I used at the copy machine. I could also keep my books on the desk until I finished with them. My research really sped up!
Once I completed what I could find in the card catalogue, Will told me about a "stacks pass," which allowed me to go down into the library and search the shelves myself! I do not think they are available to anyone anymore.
To make a long story short, I copied about 5,000 pages (at five cents each). Even if I found one page with one sentence in it, I copied it along with the title and copyright pages. The sad part was finding references with pages of interest to me very neatly cut out with a razor blade! I could not believe someone would do this!
Many years later, I started seeing some of the missing plate pages showing up in a numismatist's writings! I had no proof of his sources so I kept my mouth shut and copied that person's plate and sent a copy to the LOC for them to insert it into the original. I also copied them after I purchased an original book.
After a decade or two of copying the plates in that person's writings, I thanked him at a show for including the old plates and told him that I was copying them and sending them to the LOC so they could have a copy of them. His face turned as white as a sheet! He did not admit anything but he kept his distance from me at future shows and conventions.
There are people out there who do not have any feelings at all about destroying valuable references for their own convenience. He could have just as easily copied the pages like I did but he chose to cut them out of the book and take them out of the library! I am very happy to report there are only a few of these cancers among us. This man passed away a couple of years ago.
But I am happy to report that Dr. Tuchrello was promoted up through the ranks and is now the Director of the LOC's Southeast Asia office in Jakarta, Indonesia. He travels the region looking for references, posters, maps, etc. to purchase to send back to the LOC. The LOC also trades American publications with countries too! The LOC could not have found a more dedicated person for the job!
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
HISTORIAN ACCUSED OF ALTERING LINCOLN DOCUMENT AT NATIONAL ARCHIVES
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