The big talk in Albany this week, at least in the part of Albany that I know best, the Cultural Education Center, the home of the NYS Archives, Library, and Museum, is not the impending state primary, the fortunes of Elliot Spitzer, or the prospective fortunes of the Giants in the Super Bowl, but the terrible tale of Dan Lorello, a long-time employee of the NYS Archives, who has admitted to stealing and selling at least 400 items from the Library and the Archives, such as signed documents from founding fathers, or rare copies of valuable books. (He was caught by an argus-eyed self-described "history buff” who noticed that some John C. Calhoun documents on sale on Ebay belonged, according to the extant records, to the NYS Archives. He contacted the Albany police, and the matter was quickly exposed, and Dan Lorello confessed to his disgraceful crimes.
When I was working on the Encyclopedia of NYS I met Dan Lorello a few times, though we barely knew each other. We asked him if he was interested in writing about NYS Civil War regiments for the Encyclopedia, and he turned us down cold. (Lorello had the reputation as the most knowledgeable expert anywhere on NYS’s Civil War military history.) I suppose we weren’t paying enough money, and needless to say, I am now glad he didn't write for us. One person I spoke this week said that when he was a researcher in the archives, that he found Lorello curt and unhelpful, and he went out of his way to avoid working with him, but this seems to be a minority opinion. Let me give the last word to a friend of mine who works extensively in the archives who sent me an email about it today, and who thinks that what is publicly known about Lorello’s pilferings might be the tip of the iceberg:
“I would equate the atmosphere in the library and archives like that of a funeral. I knew Dan, very well, and like you always hear, he was, "the nicest guy on the face of the earth. You would never suspect him." The problem for me is that his deposition stated he stole about 400 documents in 2007 - if you believe him. I do not. I bet he took much more. He claimed in went in on weekends and state holidays to get items! I bet he stole more, and to do that since 2002 - there is no way to calcualte what or how much he stole. Several Albany maps are missing still, and Simeon Dewitt [surveyor-general of NYS in the early decades of
the 19th century] items, which I need about a year ago are still unfound. The e-bay part is the only traceable way to find out what he stole, but the buzz is that he went to trade shows and antiquarian books and ephemera fairs - so time will tell. Because of the non e-bay items... who knows how much he took. He admitted to trading privately, but what he took for cash will never be known. How about the Bozo attorney who bought items outside the museum in the parking lot for cash, from Lorello? Idiot!
I do feel the loss is immeasurable - and to me it feels worse than the 1911 fire, because it was intentional. [The 1911 fire in the State Capitol Building, then the location of the State Library, which resulted in the loss of some 275,000 documents, one of the worst library fires in American history.] The value of what he stole we cannot reclaim and is permanent. We lost half of the Rev War documents in the fire and this Bozo goes and sells what we have left! Nice!”