Theft from the British Museum, the museum will digitize its entire collection

The British Museum has its work cut out for it. After receiving the independent report into the thefts revealed in August, board chairman George Osborne said the museum had “accepted all of the recommendations” of the report.

The 36 points of the document represent reforms of importance for the institution, which involve a modernization of management methods or even a strengthening of risk assessment strategies.

The museum assures, however, that more than a third of these recommendations are already in progress or even completed, for some of them, since Mark Jones took office. Appointed interim director in September, he succeeded Hartwig Fisher, who resigned after the revelation this summer. It is in this context that the British Museum announced in October its plan to record and digitize its entire collection.

On the other hand, the report remains limited in terms of the details revealed concerning the flights “due to the ongoing police investigation”. He confirms that the total number of damaged or missing items is estimated at around 2,000 and that these thefts took place over a long period of time. The non-inventoried objects were targeted as priorities by the thieves, in particular precious stones and jewelry from the department of Greece and Rome.

Dr Ittai Gradel, an expert in Roman antiquities, alerted the museum in 2021 but the internal investigation wrongly concluded that his suspicion was unfounded. However, an internal audit carried out later in the year revealed that an object was out of place in the Greece and Rome room. This discovery led to a wider audit from April 2022 revealing further disappearances of objects.

Among the 500 objects targeted by the thieves but not taken away, 350 were damaged, for example by the removal of their gold settings. The report judges that these parts are probably irrecoverable because they had to be sold to be melted down. 351 objects of the 1,500 missing or stolen pieces have already been returned and 300 others have been identified.

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