Reports indicate over 1,700 objects missing from England’s museum collections

More than 1,700 objects have gone missing from England’s museum collections over the last 20 years, according to a report published by the Guardian. The missing items were not known until the PA news agency filed Freedom of Information Act requests to museums and galleries.

Many in England have been paying attention to missing items such as this since last summer, when 2,000 artifacts in the British Museum‘s collection were announced as having been stolen, missing, or damaged. The museum’s chair person George Osborne suggested this was due to incomplete cataloguing.

According to a recent report by The Guardian, London’s National Portrait Gallery is unable to locate 45 items, although the institution insists they are not missing or stolen. The items, which were lost between 2007 and 2022, include a 1869 drawing of Queen Victoria and a mid-19th century engraving of King John granting the Magna Carta. The gallery is currently searching for these items, which represent .02 percent of its collection, following a three-year refurbishment.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has also reported 180 missing items, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, and a mousetrap. The museum has yet to determine whether these items were lost or stolen. Meanwhile, the Tate art museums and galleries and the National Gallery have reported no missing items.

The Royal Museums Greenwich has reported 245 unlocated artifacts across its southeast London locations, including a navigational aircraft computer and a gun-sighting telescope. The museum has attributed the loss to incorrect data transfer, incorrect documentation, and human error, but has managed to rediscover 560 objects since 2008 through auditing.

The Natural History Museum has reported the loss of a jaw fragment from a late Triassic Diphydontosaurus, over 180 fish, and a crocodile tooth. The Science Museum Group, which has begun using barcodes on artifacts, reported the loss of two model steam trains and a 1960s deep-sea observation chamber model, among other items, to the police in 2014.

Seven objects have been reported missing from the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London. Other museums, including the Wallace Collection, Museum of the Home, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and National Museums Liverpool, have also reported missing items.

The Imperial War Museum has reported over 550 missing artifacts, including ship camouflage drawings and a calendar with a photograph of former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.