An independent review has strongly recommended that the British Museum complete the registration and documentation of its entire collection following the discovery of 2,000 missing, stolen, and damaged items earlier this year.

Among the 36 recommendations in the report were “more frequent and more extensive inventory checks of the Collection,” including unregistered items, as well as management reviewing “their approach to suspension of employees to give due weight to the protection of the collection, the integrity of its records and the wellbeing of staff.”

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Other recommendations concerned audit and risk, governance, and security. The review was led by former corporate lawyer Sir Nigel Boardman, Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, and Deputy High Court Judge Ian Karet.

The museum’s board of trustees “unanimously accepted” all the recommendations. However, only four pages from the 30-page report were publicly released owing to redaction of the security measures, as well as the ongoing investigation with the Metropolitan Police’s Economic Crime Command.

A press statement from the British Museum said that “over a third of the published recommendations are already underway or completed” under the leadership of interim director Mark Jones, including a five-year plan to fully document and digitize the institution’s entire collection. “This will eliminate any pockets of unregistered objects and ensure that the British Museum’s collection is the most viewed, studied and used in the world.”

The estimated cost of the museum’s documentation and digitization project is £10 million ($12.1 million). The figure was disclosed during oral evidence given by Jones and board chairman George Osborne to the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee in October.

“We are not asking the taxpayer or the Government for the money; we hope to raise it privately,” Osborne said.

Notably, the museum plans to utilize the increased digital access to the collection in response to requests for items to be returned or repatriated. “Part of our response can be: “They are available to you. Even if you cannot visit the museum, you are able to access them digitally.” That is already available—we have a pretty good website—but we can use this as a moment to make that a lot better and a lot more accessible,” Osborne said.

The British Museum’s independent review was completed November 30, and the museum publicly announced the results on Tuesday.

Dr. Ittai Gradel is a Dutch antiquities dealer who tried to alert senior museum officials in 2021 about stolen items appearing in eBay listings for as little as $51. His attempts to alert former director Hartwig Fischer and deputy director Jonathan Williams were dismissed.

Fischer publicly stated on August 23 that he took Gradel’s allegations seriously, but then stepped down two days later, instead of in early 2024 as had been previously announced. “I also misjudged the remarks I made earlier this week about Dr Gradel,” Fischer said. “I wish to express my sincere regret and withdraw those remarks.”

Gradel said the museum’s recently published independent review was “ridiculous.”

“They do not have a single word about anyone within the British Museum doing anything whatsoever wrong at any point in time here,” he told the BBC. “There is absolutely zero accountability for anything that has gone wrong here.”

Williams agreed to “step back from his duties” as a result of the thefts, but had remained in the museum’s employ. A report from the BBC this afternoon stated that “the deputy director who oversaw a botched investigation into thefts at the British Museum is leaving the institution.”

Osborne also said that the staff member believed to have stolen or damaged approximately 2,000 objects over 30 years was not cooperating with the institution’s inquiry.

“One of the things that we’ve got to get to the bottom of is exactly the motivation of the individual who we believe is responsible,” Osborne told the BBC on Tuesday. “But he has not been talking or co-operating.”

News reports identified the fired staff member as Peter Higgs, a senior curator who even served as an expert in the case of a 2,000-year-old marble statue that was repatriated to Libya in 2021.

It’s also worth noting how much Gradel has contributed to the museum’s recovery of the stolen items so far. According to the BBC, the museum has identified 651 items, 351 of which have been handed back—all but one of them coming from Gradel.

Gradel told the BBC he bought many of the items in batches, “maybe £50 per gem,” and most were returned based on circumstantial evidence due to lack of catalog information. Damage to the objects included the destruction of approximately 350 gold mountings, “possibly melted down for their scrap value,” as well as tool marks on 140 other items.