Pennsylvania is losing its history right out from underneath the feet of every bureaucrat and taxpaying citizen.
Auditor General Jack Wagner’s audit of the Commonwealth’s prized jewels is, to say the least, disturbing.
By Wagner’s count nearly 2,000 artifacts are missing. Among the works of art that are unaccounted for – -a pair of plaster sculptures worked from the hands of artist Robert Tait Mckenzie, a nearly 800-year-old Turkish gold ring, and a Civil War-era rifle.
The report is based on 11 inventories from 1998 to 2009, and if that’s not enough to gnaw away at one — nearly 300 artifacts have vanished from nine collections at the State Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
“These missing artifacts are pieces of Pennsylvania history that are likely lost forever, either through mishandling or theft,” Wagner said.
Wagner implored the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to take a more proactive approach to safeguarding the jewels its charged with preserving.
The total number of missing pieces from Pennsylvania’s museumsmay actually be much higher because of lax oversight and an outdated way to take inventory.
In addition to gems they can not find, auditors observed relics suspended from overhead pipes, curators at three museums say water leaking from pipes has damaged some pieces.
Wagner noted that the budget cuts that the commission has undergone in recent years were contributing factors to weak oversight.
The commission’s budget has been cut by more than 50 percent since 2006 – which resulted in reducing its staff by 215 people.
Wagner’s office recommended that the museum hire a development director to raise money to purchase a bar-code identification system.
The commission is responsible for overseeing 23 historic sites and museums throughout the state.
Rock The Capital asked the auditors office about the value and while a spokesperson could not answer he told us to take a look at Wagner’s 82 page report. What we found is this statement,
“It is management’s opinion that all artifacts are priceless and that to estimate the monetary value would be unethical….”.
An Internet search for McKenzie’s sculptures discovered that the pair was sold through an auction house in New York for $42,000.
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