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City Of Pittsburgh Launches Effort To Recover Lost And Stolen Artifacts And Records

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Katie Blackley
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90.5 WESA
A City of Pittsburgh ordinance book from 1898-1900 on display in the City County Building on March 28, 2019.

The city of Pittsburgh is asking the public for help in recovering lost and stolen government artifacts. 

The city began to catalogue its 10,000 cubic feet of archives in 2016, which includes documents like maps and meeting minutes, as well as items such as old police badges and gifts given to past mayors. It was discovered that many items from the city's more than 200-year history were incomplete or missing, though it's unclear exactly how much city property could be in private hands.

Nick Hartley, archivist for the city of Pittsburgh, said records are not always seen as useful in the office environment. 

"Under those conditions, records tend to go missing," Hartley said. "They tend to be taken home, possibly as mementos, or sold or just thrown away."

Pittsburgh has no record retention policy on the books; Hartley said a city-wide one would need to be passed by City Council. But he said he's working with individual departments to develop lists of records being produced and establishing retention schedules. 

"A lot can be said for just having a full and accurate account of our history," Hartley said. "But really at the end of the day, what's most important is that these are public records and the public should have access to them."

Hartley said amnesty will be extended to anyone returning a record in their possession.