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Forgotten Vault Found in Widener Closet

By Hannah E. Kenser, Contributing Writer

Widener Library security staff discovered a forgotten vault of photographs and historical items on Thursday while preparing the building for renovations.

The vault, which was found off of a little-used closet containing a broom and a table, held photographs, negatives, coins and medallions from around the world.

The nature and importance of the collection is unknown, according to Lynda Leahy, associate librarian of Harvard College.

"We are trying to determine exactly what we have," Leahy said.

The University's conservation team has removed the items from the library and is now working to make sure they are preserved, recorded and eventually assessed for historical value.

While very few of the photographs and objects have been examined yet, one of the more interesting finds, according to preservation librarian Jan Merrill-Oldham, is a clear, close-up photo of a young Nikita Khrushchev that was among a rather large collection of Russian photographs.

The vault also contained several sharp images of both Widener and Gore Hall, the University's library in the nineteenth century, which one conservator said may prove useful during the renovations.

But, while the scope of the finds is unclear, library staff are excited.

"In a library where everything is catalogued, it's exciting to find something unknown," said Nancy C. Schrock, chief collections conservator for the Harvard College Library.

But librarians were cautious about assessing the significance of any of the items.

"We take the find at face value because [the items] may be of very modest historic value. This may be as good as it gets," Merrill-Oldham said.

Library officials will soon begin to investigate who put the items in the vault and what their motives might have been, Leahy said.

"We don't even know who might have known at one point," Leahy said.

Merrill-Oldham said that a further assessment of the artifacts will probably be available at the end of the month.

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