A member of staff at the British Museum has been sacked after items from its collection were found to be “missing, stolen or damaged”.
The items in question include gold jewellery and gems of semi-precious stones and glass, dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD.
The small pieces were kept in a storeroom, and had not recently been on public display, having been kept primarily for academic and research purposes.
George Osborne, Chair of the British Museum, said The Trustees of the British Museum had first learned about the missing items earlier this year.
The British Museum said it has since launched an independent review of security, and will take legal action against the individual. The matter is also under investigation by the Economic Crime Command of the Metropolitan Police.
The review will be led by former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D’Orsi, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police.
The museum said it will look into the matter and provide recommendations regarding future security arrangements at the Museum. It also plans to begin “a vigorous programme” to recover the missing items.
Osborne said: “Our priority is now threefold: first, to recover the stolen items; second, to find out what, if anything, could have been done to stop this; and third, to do whatever it takes, with investment in security and collection records, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said it was “a highly unusual incident” and has apologised on behalf of the museum.
He said the museum is “determined to put things right.”
“We have already tightened our security arrangements and we are working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen. This will allow us to throw our efforts into the recovery of objects.”
Sir Boardman said the recovery effort 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.”