National museums in Wales are missing nearly 2,000 items

The National Museum Cardiff in Wales.
The National Museum Cardiff in Wales. Copyright Canva
By Anca Ulea
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Though mostly unvaluable household items, the missing objects recorded by Museum Wales include ancient coins, tiles, jewellery and tools.


State-run museums in Wales are missing nearly 2,000 items, including a sword, axe and Javelin head from the Bronze Age, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

Museum Wales, which consists of seven national museums, said it’s been digitising all the paper records for the past 30 years, documenting all the missing items that have been recorded over the museum’s history. The project is expected to take another 20 years to complete.

So far, the museum has recorded 1,921 missing items – they include Roman ceramic tiles, jewellery dating back to the second century, Mesolithic tools, and rare coins and medals.

Museum Wales, known as Amgueddfa Cymru in Welsh, told the BBC that no items of high financial value were identified as lost or missing. Management was unable to provide pictures of the missing items.

Most of the objects that were reported as missing were common household items, but there were some rare and historic objects on the list – like a Mesolithic flint tool, dating back from as long ago as 7,000 BC.

Several coins were listed as missing, including a Roman coin belonging to emperor Caracalla and a 16th Century Henry VIII silver coin. The museum told the BBC that “a significant proportion of these are duplicate items and there are better quality examples within our collection.”

A medal from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and another from Edward VII’s coronation in 1902 are also missing.

An 'ongoing programme' to find missing museum items

The Wales national collection contains 5.3 million items from around the world, including paintings and fine art, as well as the library and archives.

More than half of all the missing items – 1,153 – were from St Fagans National Museum of History, a 100-acre site where 40 original buildings from different historical periods are reproduced. Some of the missing items were first reported missing in the late 1940s, and include fencing equipment, fish hooks and a lot of household crockery.

Museum Wales said that most of the items officially recorded as missing were probably misplaced, wrongly documented or lost their labels, and it expects most to be recovered as it works through the whole collection.

The art collection and the natural science collection appear to have been spared, but the museum said there’s “an ongoing programme of review in relation to research loans.”

The report on Museum Wales' missing items comes on the heels of a missing artefacts controversy that engulfed the British Museum in recent months.

A staff member was sacked, the museum's director resigned and police launched an investigation after some 2,000 priceless treasures were reported "missing, stolen or damaged" over a "significant" period of time.

Additional sources • BBC

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