The British Museum has today set out plans to fully digitise its entire collection.

The project, which is expected to take five years, is hoped to result in its collection of roughly eight million objects being made accessible to anyone.

The move comes after thefts from its collection were announced earlier this year. The fall-out of the thefts saw its then-Director Hartwig Fischer move forward his previously announced resignation, and the museum has since launched its own investigation into the thefts, and an appeal for the public’s help in their recovery.

Mark Jones, Interim Director of the British Museum, said: “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.

“But we cannot and must not assume that the security of the collection, in a wider sense, can be achieved simply by locking everything away. 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.

“So that’s why, rather than locking the collection away, we want to make it the most enjoyed, used and seen in the world.

Approximately 2.4m records are yet to be created or upgraded, he said, with more than half already completed.

Jones added: “when it is finished it will mean that everyone, no matter where in the world they live, will be able to see everything we have – and use this amazing resource in a myriad of ways.”

George Osborne, Chair of Trustees, said Jones ”has set out a compelling plan for how we can build on that to ensure the widest possible access and engagement with the collection – and I couldn’t be more supportive of his ambitions.”

Alongside this online resource,, the Museum has announced plans for enhanced access to the Museum’s study rooms, where members of the public and academics can see additional items from the collection by appointment.

Art Fund – Going Places – Oct 2023
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