British Museum to Digitalize Its Collection

British Museum Made a Decision to Respond to Robberies by Digitalizing Its Entire Collection, Which Will Cost $12.1 M.

Oct 19, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis

The British Museum


British Museum revealed its ideas to digitize everything in the archive. Overall, the goal is to boost accessibility and security. Also, to prevent requests for the return of products. The initiative will necessitate uploading or updating of 2.4 million data. The implementation of this idea will take about five years. Before the institution announced this news on October 18, there were reports that around 2,000 were missing from the museum.


No Longer Permitted to Enter Strongrooms Alone

The British Museum
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 22: Sections of the Parthenon Marbles, displayed at the museum on November 22, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


Many news reports determined that former curator Peter Higgs was the staff member with a connection to missing pieces. The museum also launched a public request for help from the public. So far, the institution managed to recover about 350 objects. Interim director Mark Jones expressed his thoughts via statement.


“Following the discovery that objects have been stolen from the collection, we have taken steps to improve security and are now confident that a theft of this kind can never happen again. It is my belief that the single most important response to the thefts is to increase access, because the better a collection is known – and the more it is used – the sooner any absences are noticed”, he described.


perseus slaying medusa amasis vase
Perseus slaying Medusa, detail from an olpe, attributed to the Amasis painter, 550-530BCE, via British Museum, London


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In addition, the museum declared intentions for “enhanced access” to its research areas. Here, and by scheduling, the general public and academics can view objects from the inventory. The British Museum also altered its policies governing entry to its “strongrooms” as an outcome of the losses. It is no longer permitted to enter one alone.


Staff Members Fired

The British Museum, London
The British Museum, London


Jones and board chairman George Osborne provided written testimony to the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament on the same day the British Museum unveiled its digitization plan. They explained how the stealing happened in their remarks. There were modifications to policies, implemented as an outcome, and future whistleblower concerns were handled by the museum.


They provided more information on the British Museum‘s plan for digitizing its collection, which will likely cost $12.1 million. “We are not asking the taxpayer or the Government for the money; we hope to raise it privately”, Osborne said. The museum’s reaction to demands for restitution and transfer of artifacts would also include expanding internet connectivity to the collection.


The Rosetta Stone as seen at the British Museum.
The Rosetta Stone as seen at the British Museum in London, Britain, 2021. PHOTO HAN YAN/XINHUA VIA GETTY IMAGES


After being pressed by committee chair Caroline Dinenage, Osborne said he was “not so surprised” items from the collection went missing, but that trust given to a member of staff was “completely abused” with records altered and “quite a lot of steps taken to conceal” what happened as a result of the “inside job”. He also emphasized that the staff member had been fired.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.