The British Museum - highly criticised for possessing art from other countries - asking the public’s help to recover stolen art.

Scarlett Calverley reflects on the theft of cultural items by The British Museum and look at the loss, theft and damage of over 2000 artefacts and their plea for the British public to find them

Scarlett Calverley
21st October 2023
I can’t be the only one that is simultaneously unsurprised and hacked off by this particular story. The oblivious arrogance of the British Museum attempting to make the loss, damage and theft of 2000 artefacts the responsibility of the British public, especially after the severity of the situation being a direct result of internal negligence, is staggering.  

Not to mention that historically speaking, the British Museum board has not exactly been receptive towards public outrage about why it still contains so many relics of other cultures.  While the necessity of protection and preservation is acknowledged, I am sure I am amongst many who feel that we have no place holding onto these items, let alone parading them as art that we are proud to possess.  

The Elgin Marbles is one such example that has had renewed interest as a treasure to be returned and yet, it remains in the British Museum. Even its more commonly used name of reference is a cause for frustration, as Lord Elgin was the one who stole the sculptures, as opposed to them being more widely known with allusion to their origins as the Parthenon Sculptures.  

The BBC has reported that the treasures in question were not acknowledged by the museum as missing, until over a year after initial concern and I think this speaks volumes about what the British Museum values the most - its reputation. They chose an avenue that ultimately resulted in more lost items, did not mitigate the situation with an adequate inquiry and now are inviting the public to take partial responsibility for the recovery of treasure that should never have been lost in the first place. I fail to see why this should be a matter for public concern; the plea is utterly tone deaf.  

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