Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lester K. Born and the Library of Congress

The envelope (cover) above was mailed to Dr. Lester K. Born in Berlin on November 30, 1948 while he was working with the Reparations and Restitution Branch of the Office of the Military Government, U.S. Zone. The return address on the back of the envelope indicates that it was mailed by Dr. Ulrich Wendland. Wendland served as the director of the Gdansk Archive in Danzig from 1941-1945 and is credited with helping to save parts of the archive in the last days of World War II. After his post-war work in Berlin, Born joined the staff of the Library of Congress where he held several important positions. Interestingly, however, an action which Born took while working for the Military Government in Berlin was responsible for an investigation of the Library of Congress in 1997 for possible acquisition of books and manuscripts that should have been restituted to the victims of the Holocaust. Born allegedly wrote a memorandum in the late 1940s while at the Offenbach Archival Depot in Germany which suggested that members of the Library of Congress Mission in Germany had inappropriately removed items from the Archives for the Library's collection. The result of the investigation was that the Library of Congress Mission had acted appropriately and that "the restitution of books to their proper owners was handled with diligence, care, and respect, and characterized by close attention to existing regulation". The investigation took place long after Born's career at the Library of Congress had ended. More on the investigation and the Library of Congress Mission in Germany can be found HERE. Born's positions at the Library of Congress included serving as Special Assistant on the Microfilm Program, Coordinator of Microreproduction Projects, and Head of the Manuscript Section of the Descriptive Cataloging Division. Born played an important role in the development of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections at the Library of Congress.

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