The British Museum is appealing to the public in its efforts to recover some of the 2,000 artifacts it believes were stolen from its collections.
On Tuesday the museum said it has launched a dedicated hotline for anyone “concerned” that they “may be, or have been, in possession of” the missing items.
The announcement comes after the British Museum’s chair, George Osborne, revealed the extent of the thefts, which were discovered when objects purportedly from its collections began appearing for sale online.
“We’re dealing with lots of honest people who will return stolen items,” he told BBC Radio 4 last month. “Others may not.”
The British Museum has since revealed that 60 items have already been returned, with a further 300 identified and due to be handed back imminently.
In its statement Tuesday, the museum said that the “vast majority” of the missing artifacts are Greek and Roman gems and jewelry. It added that it is working with an international panel of specialists to recover the remaining objects.
The items have been placed on the Art Loss Register, an international database of stolen art, but full details of the lost and damaged items have not been disclosed. Instead, photos of similar artifacts have been shared via the museum’s website.
James Ratcliffe, director of recoveries at the Art Loss Register, supported the decision to withhold a full inventory of the missing items. In a statement he said the British Museum had “carefully balanced” the need to provide information to the public with the fact that providing too much detail “risks playing into the hands of those who might act in bad faith.”
The thefts appear to date back to at least 2021, when a Danish art dealer said he spotted items he believed to be from the museum’s collection for sale online.
An investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police into the stolen items is ongoing.
Founded in 1753, the British Museum is home to countless precious artifacts including the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. It initially claimed to have carried out a thorough investigation into the missing items, but Osborne said last month that a subsequent probe found its response had been insufficient.
“Yes, the museum has made mistakes,” Osborne, who was the UK’s finance minister between 2010 and 201