British Museum director quits over stolen items

British Museum director quits over stolen items

The director of the British Museum has said he is stepping down with immediate effect after admitting to failings in the museum’s investigation into the theft of items from its collection.

Hartwig Fischer, a German art historian who was due to leave his post next year, said that the museum did not sufficiently respond to warnings that an employee may have been stealing items and the failings “must ultimately rest” with him.

“Over the last few days I have been reviewing in detail the events around the thefts from the British Museum and the investigation into them,” he said in a statement.

“It is evident that the British Museum did not respond as comprehensively as it should have.”

The British Museum, among the most visited in the world and one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, said last week a member of staff had been dismissed after items including gold jewelry and gems dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD, had been found to be missing, stolen or damaged.

The museum’s board of trustees, chaired by former British finance minister George Osborne, accepted Fischer’s resignation.

“I am clear about this: we are going to fix what has gone wrong,” Osborne said. “The museum has a mission that lasts across generations. We will learn, restore confidence and deserve to be admired once again.”

British media named the sacked employee as Peter Higgs, a senior curator who worked at the institution for 30 years.

The British Museum houses the Parthenon Sculptures. Greece has consistently called for the permanent return of the sculptures, which British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Acropolis in the early 19th century when he was the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Last week, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said that her ministry was following developments at the British Museum “very carefully” [Reuters, AMNA]

Culture Ministry following developments at British Museum ‘very carefully’


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