The director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, handed in his resignation this Friday, after the resignation said he admitted negligence in the investigation into the whereabouts of assets stolen from the institution, which had not produced the desired result.
Fischer vowed to find a number of items that were stolen from the museum in 2021 and have now surfaced on online sales portals. Among these items were numerous pieces of gold jewelry, semi-precious stones, and glass dating back to the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD; the museum only found out about their disappearance a few months ago.
The investigation appeared to have ended two weeks ago when it was revealed that the person responsible for the theft was a museum employee who was fired earlier this month following the disappearance of those objects. The family that released him has defended his innocence.
The investigation appeared to have concluded satisfactorily until Dutch art dealer Ittai Gradel reported earlier this week that not all museum items had been recovered, as its director initially revealed.
In fact, Fischer went so far as to accuse the dealer of having “many of these items in his possession,” which he retracted in his resignation announcement. In response to the British broadcaster BBC, Gradel acknowledged the gesture.
“It’s the right thing. I think he should have apologized beforehand, but I accept his apology,” said the trader, who confirmed he had taken several of the items but only to give police information about the sellers.
“It is clear that the British Museum has not responded as fully to the 2021 warnings and the issue that has now fully surfaced,” he said in his resignation statement.
The museum’s board of directors has accepted Fischer’s resignation, saying he behaved “honorably”. “No one ever questioned DE Hartwig’s integrity, his dedication to his work, or his love for the museum,” said Council Chair and former British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in an additional statement.
Fischer, who has held the post since 2016, announced in July that he would step down next year.