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British Museum Employee Fired Over Missing and Damaged Artifacts

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Photo: British Museum Employee Fired Over Missing and Damaged Artifacts. Source: Facebook / British Museum
Photo: British Museum Employee Fired Over Missing and Damaged Artifacts. Source: Facebook / British Museum

The British Museum announced on Wednesday that one of its staff members has been dismissed following the discovery of missing, stolen, and damaged artifacts dating back to the 15th century BCE.

BBC reported this.

The museum stated that it has also initiated an independent security review and an "energetic program to recover the missing items."

The stolen artifacts include gold ornaments adorned with semi-precious stones and glass, dating from the 15th century BCE to the 19th century CE. Most of these were small items stored in warehouses and none had been recently displayed, the museum reported.

"We have three priorities at present: firstly, to recover the stolen items; secondly, to ascertain what could have been done to prevent this; and thirdly, to do everything possible, investing in security and collection records, to ensure that this does not recur. This incident only reinforces the arguments in favor of the museum's ongoing reevaluation, which we have embarked upon," stated George Osborne, the museum's board chairman.

"The custodians of the British Museum were deeply concerned when we learned earlier this year that collection items had been stolen. We summoned the police, implemented extraordinary security measures, organized an independent review of what transpired, and utilized all available disciplinary powers to address the individual we believe responsible," he added.

The museum revealed that legal action will be taken against the dismissed employee and the case is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service of London.

The independent review of the museum's procedures will be led by former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman and Senior Constable Lucy D'Orsi from the British Transport Police.

According to the museum, they will provide recommendations regarding future security measures.

Sir Nigel stated, "This will be painstaking work involving both internal and external experts, but it is an absolute priority, no matter how long it takes, and we are grateful for the assistance we have already received."

The 264-year-old British Museum stands as a major London tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world who come to witness its vast collection of artifacts ranging from the Rosetta Stone, instrumental in deciphering Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, to 12th-century Chinese poetry scrolls and masks created by Indigenous peoples of Canada.

However, the museum has also been a subject of controversy, as it resisted calls from communities worldwide to return historically significant objects acquired during the era of the British Empire. Among the most prominent disputes are the marble carvings from the Parthenon temple in Greece and Benin bronzes from West Africa.

Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, offered apologies and expressed the institution's intention to rectify the situation.

"This is a highly unusual incident," Fischer commented. "I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we take the protection of every item we care for very seriously."

Earlier, The Gaze reported that museums and galleries across Europe hold extensive collections of treasures and objects from around the world. In essence, European museums are replete with looted artifacts from their colonial history. Presently, countries are beginning to repatriate what rightfully belongs to them.

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