Sunday, May 19, 2024

British Museum heist… How did 2,000 artefacts get away?


The head of the British Museum, George Osborne, confirmed yesterday that around 2,000 artefacts, including gold and precious stones, had long been stolen from the museum, but recovery efforts were already underway.

The museum said last week that one of the employees was fired after discovering that pieces dating back to the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD had been stolen from the store.

The museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and its treasures include the Egyptian Rosetta Stone, which contains inscriptions in hieroglyphics and other ancient scripts.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne told BBC radio that the museum’s holdings were not fully cataloged or properly recorded, which was not unusual for large institutions that had amassed their collections over hundreds of years.

He added that a criminal investigation is underway into what was stolen. “We think it’s around 2,000 pieces … but I have to say it’s a very tentative number and we’re still looking at it seriously,” he said.

“We have already started recovering some of the stolen items,” he added, giving no details on what was recovered or how it was recovered.

Notably, the museum’s recently resigned director, Hardwick Fisher, admitted that the museum “didn’t deal extensively with warnings in 2021” about the stolen artefacts.

“For the past few days, I have been reviewing and investigating in detail the events associated with museum thefts,” Fischer, a German art historian, said in a statement.

“It is clear that the British Museum has not responded comprehensively to the warnings in 2021 and the problem that is now fully exposed,” he added.

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“The responsibility for this failure must ultimately lie with the manager,” he said.

The total value of the missing pieces is believed to be “millions of pounds”.

George Osborne said that Fisher was “treated with dignity, and no one doubted his integrity, his devotion to his work, or his love for the museum”.

And the museum previously announced that the artefacts were not finally shown to the public and were kept in a warehouse, stressing that they were mainly used for research and educational purposes.


The British Museum announced last week that it had fired a staff member after it was confirmed that some items from its collection had been lost, stolen or damaged. The British news agency said the museum had not taken any legal action against the employee, and police were investigating, but no arrests had been made.

George Osborne:

“The museum’s holdings are not fully cataloged or properly recorded.”

Hardwick Fisher:

“Museum does not elaborate on warnings in 2021.”

Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
"Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert."

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