The British Museum is now recovering some of its stolen items - but the damage is done and it will get worse
Stolen museum artefacts have exposed the holes in a world-renowned institution and the bitter irony of what it holds
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The British Museum is a symbol of the might Britain once undoubtedly held on the international stage. So are artefacts being stolen from its inventory now symbolic of a wider fall from grace?
Think about it for a minute. This is the museum renowned across the world for its unrivalled collection. But it's clear security lapses are prevelant if as many as 2,000 items have now been stolen and its reputation is now at risk of being lost too.
Yes, they are beginning to be accounted for now - but this could take decades to complete. Even then, they may never all be reclaimed - a staggering nine out of ten lost treasures are never recovered by British museums.
But what can't be overlooked is the irony of the museum reclaiming what it deems to be stolen goods - when many of these artefacts were indeed acquired by questionable means in the first place.
And recent events have only reheated this debate. For example, following the theft incident, China state media is now calling on the British Museum to return some of the 23,000 Chinese objects it has in its possession.
And there are plenty of other artefacts that are being urged to be returned to their native homes. The Benin Bronzes are another item that many Nigerians seek to be returned.
Then there's the Parthenon Marbles - taken from Athens in the early 1800s while under Ottoman rule. Another item that is facing calls for repatriation despite the museum calling this acquisition a "creative act".
A final example of artefacts that have been acquired through controversial means is the moai sculptures on the museum from Easter Island.
After all, what true claim does Britain still have to these items beyond recent history and its Empire's bygone prestige? What about the many years - in some cases thousands of years - that these artefacts were in the possession of foreign countries?
The irony of the current predicament speaks volumes. Perhaps it's time we rethink what exactly the British Museum should be exhibiting - or it needs to be renamed at least to better reflect its offerings.