Here’s a Friday teaser for you. A member of the public left a collection of letters with the archive for listing and further research (possible valuation), stating at the time of leaving the collection that the letters where ‘family letters’. On closer examination/transcription the letters were all sent to the head of a religious order and all refer to the running of that order. They are clearly not ‘family letters’ and don’t relate to anyone in the ‘family’ in any way. Also it is unknown how they came into the family’s position, as the family member who possessed them is no longer alive. It is high unlikely that the religious order would have sold these letters.
My question is a problem of ownership. The letters clearly belongs in the religious order collection but the member of the public now wants them back (possibly wanting a payment for them?).
I welcome your views - how would other archives approach this problem? Is there any legal precedent for this situation?
Please reply off list
Donna M Maguire
Archivist and Records Manager to the Bishops Conference of Scotland
Scottish Catholic Archive
Columba House, 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6PL
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