British Museum director resigns on thefts 2 years after whistleblower
British Museum director resigns on thefts 2 years after whistleblower

The British Museum was alerted to the potential theft or disappearance of valuable artefacts more than two years ago after an art historian became suspicious of an item for sale on eBay.

But the museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, said Friday he hadn’t taken the whistleblower’s warnings seriously enough and announced his resignation as investigators try to find the whereabouts of hundreds of missing items, including Includes gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and antiques.15th century BC

“It is clear that the British Museum has not responded as comprehensively as it should have to the warnings for 2021 and the issues that have now fully arisen,” Fisher said in a statement. “The ultimate responsibility for this failure rests with the director. “

The museum fired a staff member more than a week ago and said it would take legal action against that person. London’s Metropolitan Police are investigating and the museum has ordered an independent review of security and a “robust plan to recover missing items”.

The museum said most of the items were small items from storage and hadn’t been on display recently.

The 264-year-old British Museum is London’s main tourist attraction, attracting visitors from all over the world. Its collections include the Rosetta Stone, which solved the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian language, scrolls inscribed with 12th-century Chinese poetry, and masks created by Aboriginal people in Canada.

The museum has also attracted controversy as it rejected calls from communities around the world to return historically significant items acquired during the British Empire.The most famous of these controversies involved the marble Carvings of the Parthenon in Greece and Benin bronzes from West Africa.

“We want to tell the British Museum that they can no longer say that Greek (cultural) heritage is more protected in the British Museum,” Despina Koutsoumba, president of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, told the BBC this week Company (BBC).

Fisher’s statement included an apology to the whistleblower, British-Danish art historian and dealer Ittai Gradel.

Gradel told The Associated Press that he became suspicious after purchasing one of three items listed by a seller on eBay. Gradel tracked down two items in the museum that he did not purchase. The item he purchased was not listed in the museum’s catalogue, but he discovered that it belonged to a man who had turned over his entire collection to the museum in 1814.

Gradel said he found out the identity of the seller through PayPal, and the museum man was later fired. Gradel said 69 other items he purchased from the same person were “guilty by association” at the time.

Gradel said Fisher was the right thing to do by resigning and he accepted his apology. But he said deputy director Jonathan Williams should also resign, adding that Williams had assured him that a thorough investigation had found no wrongdoing.

Williams will resign pending an independent review, the museum said Friday.

“He basically told me to fuck off and mind my own business,” Gradel said. “I cannot fathom how any responsible museum personnel could see this evidence without immediately sounding the alarm.”

On Wednesday, Fisher issued a statement saying the museum took the allegations seriously in 2021. But he said concerns had been raised about only a handful of items in the collection, and said it was disheartening to learn that Gradel, who did not name him, “has more items”.

Gradel said it was an “outright lie” that he withheld information from the museum, and said Fisher never appeared to have read the documents he sent. He said he offered any help they needed, but they never contacted him.

“I also misjudged remarks made about Dr. Gradel earlier this week,” Fisher said Friday. “I would like to express my sincere apologies and retract these remarks.”

German art historian Fischer said that once an interim leader is appointed, he will leave immediately.

George Osborne, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, said the board accepted Fisher’s resignation and said he had “honorably faced up to the mistakes that had been made.”

“I’m very clear on this: We’re going to fix things,” Osborne said. “Museums have a mission to pass on from generation to generation. We learn, restore confidence, and deserve to be admired again.”

The museum said it would take legal action against the fired staff.

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