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Gold coins reported missing from Boston Public Library

A report of gold coins missing from the Boston Public Library (pictured) comes after the disappearance of two prints from the library valued at more than $600,000.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

A former Boston Public Library employee says gold coins are missing from the library, where the disappearance of two prints valued at more than $600,000 is under investigation by the Boston Police Department and the FBI, according to a library spokeswoman.

The retired employee, who has recently been volunteering at the library, notified administrators by e-mail last Friday that gold coins originally placed in the cornerstone of the main branch's McKim Building in Copley Square "are missing from library collections," said the spokeswoman, Melina Schuler.

"Based on his limited information, it is our estimation that these items went missing several decades ago," Schuler said. "It is perplexing why this is only being shared now with library administrators, but we are taking this inquiry seriously."


The library is conducting an internal review regarding the coins and notified Boston police about the allegation, she said.

Schuler declined to identify the former employee, or provide details about the value of the coins or in which collection they belonged.

A photograph of workmen laying the cornerstone of the McKim Building in November 1888 appears on the website of Digital Commonwealth, a statewide consortium of libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies. It depicts recesses in the bottom of the cornerstone that held two copper boxes containing a time capsule.

The time capsule was removed in the 1990s during the restoration of the McKim Building, according to Digital Commonwealth. It is unclear what happened to the contents of the capsule.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh was told about the allegation involving the gold coins Tuesday when he met with Amy E. Ryan, the library's president, and Jeffrey Rudman, chairman of its board of trustees, to discuss the missing artwork and concerns about security at the library, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor.

"The mayor is very disappointed in yet another breach of security," said Laura Oggeri, the spokeswoman.


Boston police launched an investigation last month into the disappearance of an Albrecht Dürer engraving, "Adam and Eve," valued at about $600,000, and an etching by Rembrandt titled "Self-Portrait With Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre," valued at nearly $30,000.

Ryan told the Globe on Wednesday that her staff knew the Dürer was missing in June 2014, but that she was not told until April 10. The library launched a search to determine whether the print had been misfiled among the collection's 200,000 prints.

When library staff discovered April 15 that the Rembrandt was also missing, Ryan said, she notified the mayor and police commissioner.

A city-commissioned audit, launched before the prints were discovered missing and released this week, found that the library inadequately protects its special collections from theft, and does not keep a complete inventory of its prized objects.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com.