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Exterior of the British Museum on 24th August 2022 in London, United Kingdom. The British Museum is a public museum dedicated to human history, with a permanent collection of 8 million works and is among the largest and most comprehensive collection, which documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

British Museum Launches Security Review After Potential Theft, Misplacement of 3,000 Artifacts 

The British Museum opened an independent review of its security after roughly 3,000 artifacts “were found to be missing, stolen, or damaged,” according to a statement from the museum.

The museum announced that it had dismissed a member of its staff and would be taking legal action against the former employee.

The artifacts in question were not display items and ranged in origin from 15th century BC to 19th century AD. Most of the items were smaller pieces, including gold jewelry, semi-precious stones, and glass.

The museum’s trustees were informed about the state of the artifacts earlier this year; however, reports indicate that some of the items were taken over an extended period of time prior to 2023.

George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said that the museum will focus on recovering the items, finding out what could have prevented the thefts, and improving the prevention of future thefts.

“The trustees have taken decisive action to deal with the situation, working with the team at the museum,” Osborne said in a statement. “We called in the police, imposed emergency measures to increase security, set up an independent review into what happened and lessons to learn, and used all the disciplinary powers available to us to deal with the individual we believe to be responsible.”

The museum told The Independent that “it does not have concerns over its staff after it sacked an employee following what is speculated to be an inside job.”

The security review is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, according to The Guardian. The review is being conducted by a former museum trustee, Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the British Transport Police, the BBC News reported.

“It will be a painstaking job, involving internal and external experts, but this is an absolute priority—however long it takes—and we are grateful for the help we have already received,” Boardman said in a statement.

The museum did not share exact details about the stolen items or how many were taken, but it did note that it would not make additional comments because it is cooperating with London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

The man accused by the museum of involvement claims he is innocent and worked for the British Museum as a curator for 30 years, according to The Telegraph.

Founded in 1753, the museum is a major tourist attraction in London, England, with a collection of artifacts from around the world and more than 60 galleries.

This is not the first significant theft of items from the museum, such as a Cartier diamond ring that was reported missing in 2017 and a 2,000-year-old Greek artifact that was stolen in 2002 from a public gallery.

The museum has also been the focus of recent calls to return artifacts of historical significance to the nations and communities that many were “acquired” from during the imperialist era of the British Empire.