BOSTON (CBS) -- It was their professor's idea. During a visit to Shanghai, he heard the story of the pagodas and how they disappeared in 1957.
He decided that he and his students would find them and they did.
Damien is an exchange student from China studying at Boston College. He signed up for an advanced history course last semester, a class that Professor Jeremy Clarke turned into a global search for lost artifacts - 86 pagodas, to be exact.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports
BC Students' Global Search Turns Up Lost Pagodas
Chinese orphans in Shanghai made them by hand and they were sold at the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco to the Field Museum in Chicago. They ended up in New York for a while and then the paper trail ended.
"For weeks we were looking all over the country. Calling museums and art dealers," he said.
Week-by-week, students posted progress on the search online. They even got the word out via social media.
"I'm pretty sure all of us in the class and our room mates were sick of the #findthosepagodas," Damien said. "We happened upon one woman who had actually seen them and of all places, they were right here in Boston."
That led the students to an art broker who convinced the private owner to display a few pieces at the Boston College campus.
A couple of months ago, part of Damien's cultural history was sitting in a warehouse in Somerville, a mystery to the world. Now, his family back home can't believe how these pagodas survived the journey west.
"American people trying to find our stuff? They are very excited as well," he said.
The relics are on display at the O'Neil Library on BC's campus this month.
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