British Museum Announces It Has Recovered 268 More Missing Objects Following Theft Scandal

Artnews_ The British Museum announced in a statement Friday that it had located 268 objects that were either missing or stolen from its collection.

The museum announced in February an initial number of around 350 objects recovered, from the over 1,500 identified as lost or stolen last summer. That brings the total figure to 626 recovered. On Friday, the museum said it was currently pursuing new leads for around 100 other objects, and that pieces had been found in Europe and North America.

The British Museum scandal broke last August when the institution announced that a staff member, later identified as senior curator Peter Higgs, had been fired after thousands of items were discovered to be missing or stolen. The thefts allegedly occurred over the course of 30 years, with many items sold for a fraction of their worth on the ecommerce website eBay.

As ARTnews‘ Karen K. Ho detailed in December, as a result of the extent of the thefts, director Hartwig Fischer immediately stepped down instead of departing early in 2024 as previously announced. Deputy director Jonathan Williams also left following the recent conclusion of an independent review, which had 36 recommendations for the museum’s security, governance, and record-keeping operations. There are plans for a complete documentation of the museum’s collection in five years at a cost of $12.1 million. There have also been renewed calls for the repatriation of items such as the Benin Bronzes and the Parthenon Marbles from Nigerian and Greek officials.

In a statement, George Osborne, the chairman of the museum trustees, said, “Few expected to see this day, and even I had my doubts. When we announced the devastating news that objects had been stolen from our collection, people understandably assumed that was it – we were unlikely to ever see more than a handful of them again.

“That’s usually the history with thefts like this. But the team at the British Museum refused to give up. Through clever detective work and a network of well-wishers, we’ve achieved a remarkable result: more than 600 of the objects are back with us, and a further 100 have been identified – in total almost half the stolen items that we could recover.

“It’s a great result but we’re not resting here – the hunt goes on for the remaining missing objects. I urge anyone with any information to follow the example of all who’ve helped us and get in touch.”