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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The Theft That Wasn't

The media has buzzed these last few days with the bizarre story of an attempted theft here at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The phone has rung at least once a day with calls from the press asking what really happened. It wouldn't be appropriate to comment in Odd Wisconsin on a criminal case under investigation, but Society friends, supporters, and other readers can rest assured that when the dust settled last Thursday, nothing was missing from the collections thanks to the observant eyes and swift action of the maintenance crew.

The bookcase in which the Society's first collections were placed more than 150 years ago -- our equivalent of the Ark of the Covenant -- did suffer a broken pane of glass, but the Museum staff have located a conservator who keeps a stock of mid-19th century glass and can restore it. It has since been moved to a more secure (though still public) location inside the Library where staff can keep an eye on it, and its most valuable books have been transfered to the Society's rare book collection.

The volumes kept in that case -- mostly state government reports from the 1850s -- generally possess little market value and, so far as we know, contain no surprises like this one did. Last week's vain attempt to steal one of them was audacious but surely not as bold as this attempt to steal a river, and it won't evolve into a legend, like the supposed theft of Abraham Lincoln's horse near Fort Atkinson.

No, this week's headlines racing around the nation's papers and across the CNN ticker will die a quiet death in another day or two, and appropriately so. Perhaps the oddest thing about the incident is that it captured so much public attention. Those of you who treasure your Historical Society, saw the headlines, and wondered what the fuss was all about, can be confident that all's still well at 816 State St. in Madison.
:: Posted in Bizarre Events on October 5, 2005

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