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British Museum ordered to keep better records after theft of 1,500 items | British Museum

The British Museum must keep a full register of all items in its collections after up to 1,500 items were stolen in recent years, an independent review has said.

The review was initiated by the guardians of the museum that holds it about 8 million historical artifacts on behalf of the nation, after items were discovered stolen, damaged or missing earlier this year.

The thefts caused significant damage to the museum's international reputation. He was accused of serious security failures and grossly inadequate documentation of the artifacts stored in the vaults.

The museum released more details about the thefts and damage along with the release of inspection recommendations on Tuesday.

It said the thefts took place over a “significant period of time” and estimated the total number of damaged or missing items at 2,000. Unregistered gems and jewelery in the Greece and Rome departments appear to have been targeted.

A police investigation is underway, and the center's longtime senior staff member London the museum was looted.

The independent review was led by Sir Nigel Boardman, a former corporate lawyer, Lucy D'Orsay, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, and Ian Corrett, a deputy High Court judge. The museum said it unanimously accepted the review's recommendations.

The first two recommendations were that the museum should “have a policy defining what constitutes its collection” and that it “should identify unregistered or inadequately registered items in the collection and fully register them”.

The museum said that this work is already underway and that the documentation and digitization of the entire collection will be completed within five years.

The review also provides guidance on risk management, auditing, governance and security.

George Osborne, chairman of the trustees, said the museum was already “putting our own house in order”.

He added: “The British Museum has been the victim of theft over a long period and we apologize once again that this has been allowed. An ongoing police investigation means a full report cannot be released today, but we have fully accepted the recommendations and have begun returning hundreds of stolen items.

“Above all, we are determined to emerge from this period a stronger, more open and more confident museum fit for the future.”

Sir Mark Jones, interim director of the museum, said: “No one can pretend that this has been an easy period for the museum, but I really admire the commitment of staff to building a stronger future for the museum that we all care so much about. deeply about.”

Hartwig Fischer, who has been director of the British Museum since 2016, resigned in August amid international embarrassment over the artefact theft and the museum's response. He said he took responsibility for the museum's failure to respond adequately to warnings about the alleged theft of thousands of items in 2021.

The museum said on Tuesday that about three-quarters of the 2,000 objects in question were either stolen or missing. A further 350 items were removed, such as gold mounts for jewels, which were likely to be sold for scrap. About 140 were damaged by tool marks.

Of the 1,500 missing or stolen items, 351 items have been returned to the museum, and another 300 items have been identified.

The museum said it believed the thefts “occurred over a significant period of time” and that “the main target appears to have been unregistered items – mainly gems and jewelery – in the Greece and Rome department”.

It added: “The museum was alerted to suspected thefts in 2021 by Dr Ita Gradel. The museum's investigation erroneously concluded that the claims were baseless.

“Later that year, a spot check by internal audit found that the item was misplaced in the Greece and Rome composition. This led to a more extensive audit of the fortress, as well as a collection of Greek and Roman jewelry and gems. This began in April 2022, and subsequent audits revealed further evidence of missing objects.

“In December, issues arising from the audit were raised with senior management and the chairman of the British Museum. The chairman immediately called the police and they began an investigation. At their request, nothing was publicly said then.

“In August 2023, with the consent of the Metropolitan Police, the British Museum announced the discovery of thefts. At the same time, the museum announced that one member of staff had been dismissed and that an investigation had been launched to look into the matter and make recommendations on future security measures at the museum.'

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2023/dec/12/british-museum-told-to-keep-better-records-after-theft-of-1500-items

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