Despite recent media reports on the disappearance last year of rare books and prints from the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), a University official said yesterday that no new evidence has been discovered concerning the losses.
Attention was again focused on the MCZ when the Boston Globe reported on Sunday that the University's losses exceeded $500.000 and that the losses may have resulted from a highly organized theft plot. The story was subsequently aired by several area radio and television news services.
But Edward Powers, associate general counsel for the University, said he "couldn't understand why the Globe would basically reprint an article they ran a year ago." The Globe, along with other local newspapers, covered the losses when they were first reported a year and a half ago.
Harvard has never released an official estimate as to the extent of the MCZ losses -- which included original works by John J. and John W. Audubon. Louis Agassiz, and George Buffon--but the Globe reported that an appraisal commissioned by the paper had set the figure at more than $500.000. The study was conducted from lists of books the University had reported missing.
Powers said the University has also had the losses appraised, but declined to cite any figures. "It would be almost impossible to determine an exact figure for how much we have lost." Powers said, adding that many of the books are single-copy originals and cannot be given a market value.
The Globe indicated that a "ring of thieves" may have been responsible for a large number of the thefts, but Powers said. "We have no evidence at all to support this."
The article also indicated that Harvard may have attempted to keep the losses secret, a charge Powers also refuted.
"We have been completely open about our losses: it would be against our interests to hide them," he said.
Robert Levey, who wrote the Globe article, was unavailable for comment yesterday