The British Museum to Tighten Security and Collection Records

The British Museum Should Tighten Security and Collection Records, an Independent Review Strongly Recommends.

Dec 17, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The British Museum
The museum. Via Wikipedia.


The British Museum needs to tighten security and collection records, as independent review recommends. Overall, the institution needs to finish registering and documenting every piece in its collection. This includes 2,000 missing, stolen, and damaged objects from earlier this year. The report consists of total 36 recommendations, which the museum needs to fulfil.


The British Museum Trustees Accepted Each Suggestion

gold-coin-80-bce-culla, The British Museum
Roman gold coin depicting the dictator Sulla, 80 BCE, via British Museum


For example, one of the suggestions says “more frequent and more extensive inventory checks of the Collection”, which includes unregistered pieces. Also, management reviewing “their approach to suspension of employees to give due weight to the protection of the collection, the integrity of its records and the wellbeing of staff”. Other suggestions relate to governance, security, and audit and risk.


Former corporate lawyer Sir Nigel Boardman, Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, and Deputy High Court Judge Ian Karet conducted the research. The council of trustees of the institution “unanimously accepted” each suggestion. However, because the security measures got redacted, just four of the thirty-page report became available to the public. There is also the ongoing investigation with the Metropolitan Police’s Economic Crime Command.


bronze murmillo helmet
Bronze Murmillo Helmet, Roman 1st Century CE From The British Museum


A press statement from the museum said that “over a third of the published recommendations are already underway or completed” under the leadership of interim director Mark Jones. This includes a five-year timeline for completely digitising and documenting the collection held by the institution. “This will eliminate any pockets of unregistered objects and ensure that the museum’s collection is the most viewed, studied and used in the world”.

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Money Raised Privately?

The B museum, Surprising Results
The museum. Via archive.


The effort to digitise and document the museum anticipates to cost$12.1 million. The amount came to light in oral testimony that Jones and board chairman George Osborne provided to the Culture, Media, and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament in October. “We are not asking the taxpayer or the Government for the money; we hope to raise it privately”, Osborne said.


Notably, the museum plans to utilize the increased digital access to the collection in response to requests for items to be returned or repatriated. “Part of our response can be: “They are available to you. Even if you cannot visit the museum, you are able to access them digitally.” That is already available—we have a pretty good website—but we can use this as a moment to make that a lot better and a lot more accessible”, Osborne said.


roman letter writing tools pliny the elder
A Roman writing kit, including a wax writing tablet, bronze and ivory pens (styluses), and inkwells, circa 1st-4th century CE, via the British Museum


Osborne added that the employee was not assisting the organisation with its investigation. Also, thought to have stolen or damaged some 2,000 items over a 30-year period. “One of the things that we’ve got to get to the bottom of is exactly the motivation of the individual who we believe is responsible”, Osborne told the BBC on Tuesday. “But he has not been talking or co-operating”.

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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.