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Judge Orders Hawaiian Artifacts Returned to Fitzwilliam Library

Attorney Steve Gordon and Paralegal Jessica Bellemore recently had a judge rule in their favor to return a collection of antiques to the Fitzwilliam Library in New Hampshire. The collection of artifacts is believed to be worth more than $100,000 and included an 1838 Hawaiian language Bible, as well as a 150-year old hand-drawn map of the islands.

The library filed suit against a former Fitzwilliam Library trustee and her son in 2012 after learning that the items, which were donated to the library in 1907, were in their possession with the intention to sell them. After a trial in Cheshire County Superior Court, the judge ordered the mother and son to return what remained of the collection to the library within 30 days.

The items were part of the “Locke Collection,” a collection of artifacts from Hawaii, Bulgaria, and Turkey which were brought to New England by Edwin Locke and William Locke more than 150 years ago.

At the trial in April, the former library trustee testified that she didn’t remember if she paid $10 or $20 for the artifacts, or if she was given them for free, some time in the 1980s. She allowed her teenage son to keep them after he expressed interest in them. The court rejected her testimony that she did not believe the items had any value, and found her account of how she acquired the items to be inconsistent and incredible.

The collection is currently in possession of the broker. The former library trustee will be responsible for the cost of shipping the items back to the library. Unfortunately, much of the collection that was in her possession, including artifacts from Bulgaria and Turkey, has already been destroyed.

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