The British Museum is planning to display some of the recovered items from an estimated 2,000 which had previously been stolen from its collection.
Speaking at a Culture, Media and Sport Committee to discuss the thefts from its collection, its Interim Director Mark Jones said 350 objects previously stolen are now in the process of being returned and catalogued.
The museum’s Chair of Trustees George Osbourne, also appeared at the committee meeting. He said the museum plans to put some of the returned objects on display, “as there is a lot of public interest in the objects”.
Details of the display are not currently included in the museum’s published plans for 2023-24.
An internal investigation and police investigation into the thefts are ongoing, and the museum has launched a public appeal for information regarding the objects still missing.
The museum leaders were quizzed about the thefts during the meeting earlier today.
Osbourne apologised for the loss of the items on behalf of the museum, describing the thefts as an “inside job”, with a member of staff having since been fired.
Asked about museum security, Osbourne said the thefts would have been “hard for any organisation” to avoid and would be “hard to spot”.
Among the action taken since the discovery of the thefts, Osbourne and Jones said a new policy has been introduced which will see tips made by external whistleblowers escalated to the museum’s management, while an internal whistleblowing policy has been updated for “best practice”.
A further new policy will also mean that no-one will be allowed in one of the museum’s vaults – or ‘strong rooms’ – alone.
Earlier today the museum also said it would digitise its entire collection, in part as a means of increasing the collection’s security.
The project, which is costed at £10m, will be met with capital which has been privately raised.
Currently the museum’s collection includes around 1 million unregistered objects, and 1.1 million which are digitised but not photographed.
In a statement earlier today, Jones said the project – expected to be complete in the next five years – will see an online record created for every object in the British Museum’s collection.
During the Select Committee Jones qualified that “there are parts of our collection which we will never describe individually”, including archaeological assemblages, and as a result – of its estimated 8 million objects – 6 million would be “sensible to deal with” through documentation.