The establishment reported in August that gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and glass had been among the many items that over a time period had been discovered to be lacking, taken or broken.
Police are finishing up an investigation into the alleged theft of the antiquities from the museum and its director Hartwig Fischer resigned from his function after admitting his failings in his investigation. The museum was alerted a few potential theft and the disappearance of helpful artefacts over two years in the past, when an artwork historian noticed objects being offered on-line.
It has taken till Tuesday, nevertheless, for the BM to share footage of the absent Division of Greece and Rome gadgets together with details about them to assist those that have them of their possession determine the objects.
The museum additionally confirmed in an announcement that “60 gadgets have now been returned, with an additional 300 recognized and because of be returned imminently”.
An unnamed member of workers has been sacked and the British Museum is taking authorized motion. A Metropolitan Police investigation is beneath method and a person was interviewed beneath warning on August 23.
The British Museum is dwelling to hundreds of thousands of helpful objects. It has a everlasting show of eight million works, which is claimed to be the biggest on the planet. Ranked third within the checklist of most-visited artwork museums worldwide, the British Museum was established in 1753 and first opened to the general public in 1759.
Whereas the alleged theft has been a lot reported, some members of the general public have been discussing the irony of the matter on-line, saying that The British Museum, an organisation that’s usually blamed for stealing artefacts from international locations throughout the globe, has been the sufferer.
Because the investigation unfolds, right here’s what we learn about what has occurred to this point.
What has disappeared from the British Museum?
The gadgets embrace gold, jewelry, and gems of semi-precious stones that date from the fifteenth century BC to the nineteenth century AD.
Former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman and Lucy D’Orsi, the chief constable of the British Transport Police, will lead an unbiased evaluation of the museum and make suggestions on future safety preparations. It should additionally “kickstart a vigorous programme to get well the lacking gadgets”, the museum mentioned.
A spokesperson for the Met mentioned: “We have now been working alongside the British Museum. There may be at present an ongoing investigation — there isn’t a arrest and inquiries proceed. We is not going to be offering any additional info at the moment.”
The 1000’s of things lacking, stolen, or broken have been reported to be value hundreds of thousands of kilos. Nonetheless, a brand new report concerning the lacking gadgets has famous that it seems “more and more probably” that the museum would possibly by no means know exactly what has been stolen because of “gaps in its stock”.
When did the British Museum uncover gadgets had been lacking?
In keeping with the PA Information Company, gadgets disappeared from the British Museum earlier than 2023. The theft is believed to have occurred over a chronic time period.
A brand new report has emerged that claims British Museum representatives had been additionally notified of alleged stolen gadgets by an artwork supplier in 2021. Nonetheless, the correspondence said that an investigation had been undertaken and there had been “no suggestion of any wrongdoing,” on the time.
In an announcement on the time, it was revealed that the trustees of the British Museum had been notified of the theft earlier this 12 months.
How has the museum responded?
A lot of the lacking gadgets had been small items stored in a storeroom belonging to one of many museum’s collections. None had lately been on public show, they usually had been stored primarily for educational and analysis functions.
George Osborne, the museum’s chairman, mentioned: “The trustees of the British Museum had been extraordinarily involved once we discovered earlier this 12 months that gadgets of the gathering had been stolen.
“The trustees have taken decisive motion to take care of the state of affairs, working with the crew on the museum. We referred to as within the police, imposed emergency measures to extend safety, arrange an unbiased evaluation into what occurred and classes to study, and used all of the disciplinary powers obtainable to us to take care of the person we imagine to be accountable.
“Our precedence is now threefold: first, to get well the stolen gadgets; second, to search out out what, if something, may have been achieved to cease this; and third, to do no matter it takes, with funding in safety and assortment information, to verify this doesn’t occur once more.
“This incident solely reinforces the case for the reimagination of the museum we have now embarked upon. It’s a tragic day for all who love our British Museum, however we’re decided to proper the wrongs and use the expertise to construct a stronger museum.”
Earlier than his resignation, Hartwig Fischer, the museum’s former director, mentioned: “This can be a extremely uncommon incident. We take the safeguarding of all of the gadgets in our care extraordinarily severely.
“The museum apologises for what has occurred, however we have now now introduced an finish to this — and we’re decided to place issues proper. We have now already tightened our safety preparations and we’re working alongside exterior consultants to finish a definitive account of what’s lacking, broken, and stolen. This can enable us to throw our efforts into the restoration of objects.”
Sir Boardman added: “The British Museum has been the sufferer of theft and we’re completely decided to make use of our evaluation in an effort to resolve what occurred, and guarantee classes are discovered. We’re working alongside the Metropolitan Police within the curiosity of prison justice to help any investigations.
“Moreover, the restoration programme will work to make sure the stolen gadgets are returned to the museum. It is going to be a painstaking job, involving inside and exterior consultants, however that is an absolute precedence — nevertheless lengthy it takes — and we’re grateful for the assistance we have now already acquired.”
The museum is not going to be commenting additional whereas the investigation is ongoing.
Who has been blamed for the alleged theft?
Peter John Higgs, 56, was revealed by his son as the staff member sacked from his role.
Mr Higgs is a senior curator who labored on the British Museum for 30 years. Authorized motion is being taken in opposition to Mr Higgs and the matter can be being investigated by the financial crime command of the Metropolitan police. Nonetheless, he has not been arrested and maintains his innocence.
Mr Higgs’s son Greg instructed The Occasions that his father’s dismissal had come as a shock.
“He’s not achieved something,” he mentioned. “He’s not pleased about it in any respect. He’s misplaced his job and his popularity and I don’t suppose it was honest. It couldn’t have been [him]. I don’t suppose there may be even something lacking so far as I’m conscious.
“He labored there for what, 35 years with none incidents. They relied on him for a lot stuff. After which, yeah, I don’t know what modified.
“He’s devastated about it, as a result of it’s his life’s work, mainly. I’ve by no means identified someone who’s so enthusiastic about what he did. I imply, he’s a world skilled in his discipline.”
Why received’t the British Museum return artefacts?
The British Museum has been urged to return artefacts that it has taken from different international locations.
For example, Mr Fischer has defended the act, stating that Elgin’s elimination of sculptures from the Parthenon within the early 1800s was a “artistic act”, and reiterated that the museum’s trustees wouldn’t help repatriating them to Athens.
This has provoked a global backlash, and more than half of the British public would like to see them returned to Greece.
The museum’s deaccessioning coverage forbids the return of any object within the British Museum’s assortment except it’s a duplicate, bodily broken, or “unfit to be retained within the assortment” and now not of public curiosity.
The British Museum Act of 1963 additionally prohibits the establishment from returning works. Nonetheless, as public stress continues to develop, the way forward for the British Museum’s repatriation coverage could also be in jeopardy.