British Museum says 626 items lost or stolen have been found

<span>The British Museum holds about 8m historical artefacts on behalf of the nation</span><span>Photograph: Tim Ireland/AP</span>
The British Museum holds about 8m historical artefacts on behalf of the nationPhotograph: Tim Ireland/AP

The British Museum has located another 268 items that went missing or were stolen from its storerooms, bringing the total number recovered to 626.

About 2,000 items were found last year to be missing or lost, some of which had been sold on eBay.

Dr Peter Higgs, a senior curator in the museum’s Greek and Rome department, was sacked after he was suspected of being involved in the disappearances. He has denied the allegations.

Hartwig Fischer, the museum’s director at the time, resigned in August after failing to properly respond to warnings about the suspected thefts of thousands of objects in 2021. His deputy, Jonathan Williams, left his post in December.

In a statement on Friday, the museum said its recovery operation was global, with objects found across Europe and North America. It said it was pursuing new leads on about 100 items.

George Osborne, the museum’s chair, said the recovery of more than 600 items was a “remarkable result”.

“Few expected to see this day, and even I had my doubts. When we announced the devastating news that objects had been stolen from our collection, people understandably assumed that was it – we were unlikely to ever see more than a handful of them again. That’s usually the history with thefts like this,” he said.

“But the team at the British Museum refused to give up. Through clever detective work and a network of well-wishers, we’ve achieved a remarkable result: more than 600 of the objects are back with us, and a further 100 have been identified – in total almost half the stolen items that we could recover.”

Osborne said the hunt for missing objects would continue.

The museum launched an independent review of security last summer after items including gold jewellery and gems of semiprecious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD were found to be missing, stolen or damaged.

Most of the missing items were small pieces kept in a storeroom belonging to one of the museum’s collections. None had recently been on public display, and they were kept primarily for academic and research purposes.

The independent review recommended in December that the museum keep a comprehensive register of all items in its collections. It made further recommendations on risk management, auditing, governance and security.

The museum holds about 8m historical artefacts on behalf of the nation.