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The British Museum Seeks to Digitise Collection of Stolen Artefacts


The British Museum intends to digitize all of its collection, following an announcement that 2,000 artefacts had either been lost or stolen.


The digitization exercise has been budgeted to cost at least 10 million pounds (Ksh 1.8 billion). Roughly 2,000 artefacts were reported lost or stolen from the London, England museum in August. The museum’s outdated recordkeeping system has been blamed for the fact that the loss of these assets went unnoticed for years.

In a press release dated October 18, it appears that the museum has plans to make the collection more accessible and to make sure that all of the information is recorded and made available online. The effort is expected to take five years, during which time the complete collection will be made available to anyone wanting to look at it for the first time.

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In 2029, the visitors of the British Museum will be able to browse through the museum’s collections as the project is expected to take more than five years to complete and require the documentation and upload of more than 2.4 million documents.

According to the Chair of Trustees for the British Museum, George Osborne, they were the victims of an inside job by someone they believed had been stealing from the museum for a long time and in whom the museum had placed confidence. A police investigation is in progress, and an independent evaluation has been conducted and they are learning lessons from the thefts. Osborne informed legislators that the thefts may have begun as long as 25 years ago and that 350 objects have already been found and would be given back to the museum.

The British Museum

The British Museum claims to have at least 8 million artefacts in its collection, including priceless treasures like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles, according to its website. Several countries have asked the museum to restore historical artefacts to their nations of origin, but the request has been denied over the years.

One such country is the West African nation of Nigeria. After decades of requests, Nigeria and the United Kingdom finally reached an agreement in late 2018, whereby the British Museum will donate several bronzes to Nigeria for the country’s upcoming 2021 Royal Museum. Crucially, though, the British Museum maintained that it is simply lending the sculptures and still demands that Nigeria return the items that Britain took.

British Museum
Artefacts on display at the British Museum. Photo: REUTERS

The British Museum has an endless list of stolen treasures that it will not part with. Easter Island has also requested that the museum return its Moai head monument, while Egypt wants its Rosetta Stone returned. Greece, an EU member state, even demands that the museum restore the Parthenon marbles, commonly referred to as the “Elgin marbles” because of the Scottish lord who stole them.

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The museum director earlier cited the importance of ‘having the artefacts preserved as a whole’ as the reason why the British Museum resists returning the stolen artefacts.


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