Brish Museum Director Hartwig Fischer resigned yesterday, August 25, months ahead of his slated 2024 departure, and Deputy Director Jonathan Williams agreed to voluntarily step back from his duties for the time being, CNN report.
The announcements come amid highly publicized reports of the theft of items in the museum’s collection by one of its own employees, prompting an internal review and police investigation.
In the wake of the reports, the governments of Nigeria and Greece have pointed to potential security risks at the institution and renewed calls for the return of the Benin Bronzes and the Parthenon Marbles.
On August 16, the British Museum announced it had fired an unnamed staff member in relation to a number of missing objects from its collection. The institution identified the stolen goods as small artworks including jewelry, gems, and glass dating from between the 15th century BCE to the 1800s.Those objects were kept in a storage room and had not been recently exhibited.
A British Museum spokesperson told Hyperallergic that they could not disclose the number of missing works, citing the ongoing investigation.
Although the thefts have only recently entered the public eye, the museum has been aware of them for at least two years, according to emails reviewed by the New York Times. In 2021, Dutch-Danish scholar and gems dealer Ittai Gradel alerted the museum that three gems from the collection were listed on the online marketplace eBay.
Gradel had purchased one of those objects plus another 69 works from the same seller. He told the institution at the time that he believed the thief was working from within the museum and leadership opened an investigation.