04 May 2012

A thief in the National Archives

A "radio historian" with a lifelone fascination with old radio programs amassed a huge collection. "In 1974, he drove to Washington in a rented van and handed several thousand recordings over to an affable and knowledgeable archivist named Leslie Waffen."

In 2010 he noted that an eBay seller offered "a broadcast radio interview with baseball legend Babe Ruth as he hunted for quail and pheasants on a crisp morning in 1937" and realized that that was one of the recordings he had donated to the National Archives.  He decided to investigate:
Goldin purchased a recording from “hi-fi_gal,” though not one of his donations. When it arrived in the mail, Goldin ran the return address — Saddle Ridge Lane in Rockville — through a reverse directory. It came back to Leslie Waffen, who had retired the previous June as chief of the Archives’ audiovisual holdings...

Over the next 18 months, Goldin helped authorities build their case, reviewing documents, submitting his original receipts from Waffen and offering up experts to help sort and appraise the cache of 6,153 recordings seized from the retired archivist’s home.

When Waffen, 67, pleaded guilty in October to theft of U.S. government property, he admitted that he stole 955 items from the Archives – among them were original recordings of the 1948 World Series, which Goldin had donated, and a rare recording of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.
More details at the Washington Post.

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