London: The British Museum has begun recovering some items that were taken from it and sold online, museum chair George Osborne said on Saturday, CNN reported. Osborne’s comments follow revelations that the museum failed to properly heed warnings that items purportedly from its collection had been appearing for sale online. Previously, the extent of the theft was unclear.
The museum had said that the majority of the missing items were “small pieces kept in a storeroom” of one collection. They include gold jewelry, gems of semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD. None of the items had recently been on public display.
Osborne, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that about 2,000 artifacts went missing, some of which have already been recovered. “We’re dealing with lots of honest people who will return stolen items, others may not,” Osborne said, as per CNN.
The scandal appears to date back to 2021, when a Danish art dealer got in touch with the British Museum to say he had spotted several items he believed to be from the museum’s collection for a sale online. The British Museum initially claimed to have carried out a thorough investigation, but a follow-up probe found the first response to be insufficient, Osborne said.
“We obviously have to improve security,” Osborne said. The British Museum, one of the world’s most well-known and prestigious museum, was founded in 1753. Its display of impressive historic artifacts like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures regularly draws visitors from across the globe.
The scandal has proved deeply embarrassing for the museum, given both its stature and the repeated calls for the institution to return many of its artifacts that were themselves stolen under the British Empire.
Museum director Hartwig Fischer stepped down on Friday and an unidentified employee was fired on Wednesday. “Yes, the museum has made mistakes. Yes, we’ve apologized for them. But we’re cleaning up the mess and we’re going to be that British museum that I think the nation and the world can be proud of,” he said, as per CNN.
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