What’s in your safe-deposit box?

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An unusual exhibit at the Arkansas State Capitol explores what remains when once-beloved objects fall into the hands of our state auditor. “Accountable for Treasures,” running through Nov. 13 in the first-floor galleries spanning the hallways north and south of the rotunda, is a rare look at the unclaimed property left in safe-deposit boxes whose owners cannot be found. While it’s common for cash and other financial assets, like wages or refunds, to go unclaimed (you’ve probably seen the notices urging you to visit www.ClaimItAR.com and conduct your own property search), it’s the contents of abandoned lock boxes that offer a glimpse at what people consider valuable.
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Thousands of items sit in the unclaimed property vault, and it is the responsibility of the Auditor of State’s office and the Property Controller to do everything possible to reunite these items with their owners or inheritors. This may mean doing extensive research to track down a living relative who could legally collect the items. In the meantime, the controller’s business is our pleasure, as we get a peek inside the hearts and minds of several lock boxes’ long-gone owners.

20161010_111708_resizedMany unclaimed boxes end up containing the typical things that you or I might put in one—items of obvious value such jewelry or rare coins, important documents such as licenses and certificates. The Capitol’s display cases do feature old coin collections and crumbling papers, but it’s the less-expected belongings, many of whose value now seems more sentimental than financial, that make this exhibit so interesting. These include a Beanie Baby collection, a VHS box set of James Bond films, a sampling of antique farming and horticulture publications, a sheet of Marilyn Monroe commemorative stamps, several Zippo lighters…the list goes on.

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Historically, the most valuable object, at least to Arkansas state historians, is a state register begun 1836 by Arkansas’s first Auditor of State, Elias Conway. Stumbled upon by a Maumelle resident several years ago, the tattered book was donated to the Arkansas State Archives on June 15, 2015—the 180th anniversary of Arkansas’s statehood. The State Capitol is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. For more information, visit the Arkansas State Capitol website.