LOS ANGELES – Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum can't locate or account for tens of thousands of valuable mementos of Reagan's White House years, according to a published report.
An audit by the National Archives inspector general concluded that the library in Simi Valley was unable to properly account for more than 80,000 objects out of its collection of some 100,000 artifacts, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Wednesday night.
The audit was connected to an investigation into allegations that a former employee stole from the Reagans' collection of gifts from foreign leaders and other dignitaries, but sloppy record-keeping has hindered the probe, Inspector General Paul Brachfeld said.
"We have been told by sources that a person who had access capability removed holdings," Brachfeld told the Times. "But we can't lock in as to what those may be."
Part of the problem has to do with a lack of supervision and a "near universal" security breakdown that may have left the mementos vulnerable to pilfering, "the scope of which will likely never be known," the audit found.
It also found numerous storage lapses, such as pieces of art stacked on top of one another, and sculptures and vases unwrapped and lying openly in an area prone to earthquakes.
When auditors tried to locate a sample of 21 items from a larger list of "high-value objects," one vase was missing even though library records indicated it was accounted for.
They also found that nine of 26 items in two unpacked boxes had gone missing. The missing items included a hand-crocheted American flag and an elephant figurine.
Some of the items unaccounted for include pieces from a large collection of ornamented belt buckles given to Reagan over the years.
An after-hours call by The Associated Press seeking comment from the library was not answered.
National Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper told the Times the agency was working to fix the problem. Some library volunteers said they were asked this summer to start an inventory project, which could take years to complete.
Part of the problem, Cooper said, is that many presidential libraries are understaffed and didn't have the same strict preservation guidelines used by most museums. The situation has improved, she said, but the libraries still struggle for funding.