Museums and Art Galleries in Crisis: Thousands of Priceless Artifacts Lost

Museums’ Bungling and the Loss of Priceless Artifacts

They’re meant to be the keepers of Britain’s history, preserving tens of millions of priceless national treasures for generations to come.

But bungling museums and art galleries across the UK have admitted to losing thousands of irreplaceable artifacts, worth millions of pounds.

Top Institutions Admit to Missing Relics

Among those guilty of having no idea where their missing relics are include some of Britain’s top institutions, from England’s Natural History and Imperial War museums and the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.

British Museum’s Massive Art Theft

The news comes after the British Museum revealed that more than 2,000 treasures worth tens of millions had been stolen from its vast collection, including gold Roman and Bronze Age jewelry classic Greek gems.

Glasgow’s Mysterious Missing Sculpture

In Scotland, Glasgow’s Museum of Transport admitted to misplacing a life-size figure of a Japanese man in a native custom not once, but twice in 2018. Possibly the most valuable treasure unaccounted for in Scotland is a £3 million sculpture by world-famous artist Auguste Rodin.

National Library of Scotland’s Missing Items

More than 4,000 items have been reported as lost or stolen at the National Library of Scotland – with missing titles including The Irish Kama Sutra sex guide, To Catch a Thief, and Plunder Squad, reports the BBC.

Unusual Thefts: Flying Suits and Banjos

Bizarrely, thieves appeared to have snatched a flying suit, goggles, and a flight jacket from the National Museum of Scotland in November 1985 – in a theft perhaps inspired by the first Top Gun movie, which came out a few weeks earlier.

Among the famous artworks to have disappeared in Glasgow is part of a painting of Sir Billy Connolly’s banjo by artist John Byrne.

Priceless Artworks Lost

Priceless works by Carlo Maratti, Thomas Gainsborough, Robert Gemmell Hutchison, and Sebastien Vrancx are featured on the city’s list of ‘unlocated’ collection items.

Museum Thefts Across the UK

Elsewhere in Glasgow, the Hunterian Zoology Museum had a dolphin skull stolen at some point between 2010 and 2021, while a set of iron knuckle dusters were pinched from the nearby People’s Palace in 2005.

And in Aberdeen, 1,330 valuables have vanished, worth an estimated £200,000, with missing items including old coins, books, photographs, and drawings.

Imperial War Museum and Natural History Museum Losses

Thousands of priceless items of historic and scientific value have been lost at two of Britain’s most important museums

The Imperial War Museum and the Natural History Museum have disclosed that important military items and dinosaur fossils have been lost or stolen.

Losses Spark Outrage

The news was revealed by The Mail on Sunday last month and triggered a wave of fury from historians and military experts. One expert who works for the BBC Antiques Roadshow blamed the losses on ‘sloppy asset management’.

Museum Responses to the Losses

The IWM said it has clear systems to safeguard the 33.5 million items in its care, and the ‘dates recorded as lost’ bear little or no relation to the date of actual losses.

The Natural History Museum emphasized that it has had just 13 instances of lost or missing items in the past decade.

British Museum’s Missing Treasures

The British Museum announced on August 16 that items from its collection were believed to be missing, stolen, or damaged.

An estimated 2,000 treasures – including gold jewelry, semi-precious stones, and glass – are said to have been taken from the London-based institution.

Fallout from British Museum Losses

In the wake of the items going missing, museum director Hartwig Fischer resigned and his deputy, Jonathan Williams, stepped back from their positions on August 25.

A Metropolitan Police investigation is underway, and a man was interviewed under caution on August 23.

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