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The British Museum will exhibit pieces stolen and then found

The British Museum in London will display some of the objects recovered following the theft of hundreds of pieces from its collections, which caused shock last summer.

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The British Museum will exhibit pieces stolen and then found

The British Museum in London will display some of the objects recovered following the theft of hundreds of pieces from its collections, which caused shock last summer. Announced Thursday, the Rediscovering Gems exhibition will be open from February 15 to June 15.

It will present a selection of 10 pieces among the hundreds found during the vast search operation launched since the announcement in August that some 2,000 pieces, including gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and glassware dating from the 15th century before B.C. to the 19th century AD, had disappeared or been damaged in its collections. The affair led to the resignation of the director of the British Museum, who accuses one of his ex-employees.

In a statement, museum president George Osborne hailed the exhibition as reflecting an “ongoing cultural shift at the British Museum, which is opening up and owning its own history” despite the blow to its reputation. Among the stolen items on display are Roman glass gems dating from the late 1st century BC to early 1st century AD, an engraving depicting a bust of Minerva in profile, and a cameo depicting a bust of Cupid. Hundreds of other unstolen pieces will complete the exhibition.

The museum notes that the theft has caused “a renewed interest” in jewelry and precious stones. It presents these “incredibly small but highly coveted masterpieces” as a “window to the Mediterranean world” serving aesthetic or sometimes official purposes. “What made this theft possible is that many of these stolen objects were unknown to researchers, were not recorded correctly and were not in our databases,” noted the museum's acting director Mark Jones, interviewed by the Times. Before the theft, “it would have been difficult to generate interest in these pieces,” he admitted. “But the truth is that these are extraordinary objects with a fascinating history.”

To avoid a repeat of such thefts, the museum has launched a vast cataloging operation and Mark Jones said he had set the objective of creating within five years a digital database containing the eight million pieces in the British Museum collection.

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