Still reeling from the shocking news that a curator stole upwards of 2,000 artifacts from the institution, the British Museum has named Carl Heron, its director of scientific research, as acting deputy director.
“Carl is a highly-respected authority within the museum, so I’m sure you will all wish him well in this position,” British Museum chairman George Osborne wrote in an email to staff, assuring employees that the search for an interim director was well underway.
That departure happened just three hours after the ahead-of-schedule resignation of director Hartwig Fischer. Heron is now effectively the leader of the embattled museum, which is simultaneously facing growing restitution demands from China, Greece, and Nigeria.
Since the scandal surrounding the thefts became public, museum leadership has been accused of ignoring warnings about collection objects being sold on eBay—Greco-Roman art historian Ittai Gradel first raised the alarm back in 2021—as well as repeated staff requests for more resources to help document the full breadth of the collection.
“What makes the inside job theft appealing is a lack of documentation or robust auditing,” a source at the museum told the Telegraph. “Theft will easily go undetected, so there is little deterrent for a bad apple.”
Williams, the former deputy director, oversaw the creation of collection auditing teams in 2015, and dedicated department of collections care in 2019, headed by an inventory manager. But critics told the Telegraph there weren’t enough resources for the department, which left “effectively one person responsible for the documentation of eight million objects.”
Peter John Higgs, the museum’s senior curator for Greek and Roman art, is believed to be the person responsible for the thefts, which largely targeted uncatalogued collection objects. The museum fired him earlier this year.
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