During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal government’s Works Progress Administration hired artists to create public works of art. The goal was to provide employment and beautify the nation. The artist James Daugherty painted six murals on the walls of the public high school in Stamford, Connecticut. During the 1970s, the city began to restore its high school. The architect and school officials agreed that the Daugherty murals should be preserved. They arranged for the construction workers to remove the murals to prevent harm. By accident, the workers rolled them up and placed them near the trash dumpsters for disposal. A student found the murals and took them home, and later notified the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) of his find. The GSA arranged to transport the murals to an art restorer named Hiram Hoelzer for storage and eventual restoration, when funds could be arranged. Over 19 years went by before anyone notified the Stamford School system where the murals were. In the meantime, neither the GSA nor anyone else paid Hoelzer for the storage or restoration. By 1989, the murals were valued at $1.25 million by Sotheby’s, an art auction house. Hoelzer filed suit, seeking a declaration that the murals had been abandoned. Were they abandoned? What difference would that make when determining ownership?

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