Almost 2,000 items missing from collection of Wales’s national museums

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1,921 items are missing from the collection of Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru) including Roman ceramic tiles and a second century Bow brooch according to a BBC report.

Museum Wales consists of seven institutions including National Museum Cardiff and St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff (home to St Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan mansion). A freedom of information request by the BBC revealed that 1,153—more than half of the total of missing items—were from St Fagans. The national collection comprises more than five million items in total.

Many of the missing items include domestic objects, such as spoons and bowls, while some antiquities such as a Mesolithic flint tool, dating from 7,000BC, are also unaccounted for. Crucially, 16 items were reported as stolen from the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, another Museum Wales site, or St Fagans since 2017.

A number of coins are listed as missing, such as a Roman coin of emperor Caracalla and a 16th Century Henry VIII groat (silver coin) but Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru) says in a statement that “a significant proportion of these are duplicate items and there are better quality examples within our collection”.

The museum statement adds: “We have robust collections management procedures in place and continually review and improve these procedures on a regular basis. However, whilst we have vigorous collection management and security procedures in place, due to the scale of the collection and with at least 1.3m people visiting our seven museums per annum, some losses are unfortunately inevitable.

“Since 2017, a total of 16 items have been identified as missing from our sites, the majority of which relate to small, domestic items. Last year, after undertaking a comprehensive review of our collections, including long-standing loans we recorded 1,921 missing items. These items are considered of low financial value such as agricultural or domestic items and also include fragments (sherds) related to excavations and replicas made for display… any losses, stolen items or objects for transfer and/or deaccession are reported to the museum’s board of trustees on a quarterly basis.”

The Museum Wales controversy follows the theft furore at the British Museum whereby more than 2,000 items appear to have been allegedly stolen by a former member of staff. Earlier this year politicians from Wales subsequently called for Welsh items housed at the British Museum, such as the 4,000-year-old Mold Gold Cape, to be repatriated across the border to Welsh museums.

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