An independent review has strongly recommended that the British Museum complete its registration and documentation of its entire collection after the discovery of 2,000 missing, stolen, and damaged items earlier this year.

The 36 recommendations from the review’s report include “more frequent and more extensive inventory checks of the Collection,” including unregistered items, as well as management reviewing “their approach to suspension of employees to give due weight to the protection of the collection, the integrity of its records and the wellbeing of staff.”

The report’s other recommendations were on audit and risk, governance, as well as security. The review was led by Sir Nigel Boardman, Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, and Deputy High Court Judge Ian Karet.

The museum’s board of trustees has “unanimously accepted” all the recommendations. However, only four pages from the 30-page report were publicly released due to the redaction of the security measures, as well as the ongoing investigation with the Metropolitan Police’s Economic Crime Command.

A press statement from the British Museum said that “over a third of the published recommendations are already underway or completed” under the leadership of interim director Mark Jones, including a five-year plan to fully document and digitize the institution’s entire collection. “This will eliminate any pockets of unregistered objects and ensure that the British Museum’s collection is the most viewed, studied and used in the world.”

The estimated cost of the museum’s documentation and digitization project is £10 million ($12.1 million). The figure was disclosed while Jones and board chairman George Osborne gave oral evidence to the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee in October.

“We are not asking the taxpayer or the Government for the money; we hope to raise it privately,” Osborne said.

Notably, the museum plans on utilizing the increased digital access to the collection as part of its response to requests for items to be returned or repatriated. “Part of our response can be: “They are available to you. Even if you cannot visit the museum, you are able to access them digitally.” That is already available—we have a pretty good website—but we can use this as a moment to make that a lot better and a lot more accessible,” Osborne said.

The British Museum’s independent review was completed on November 30 and the museum publicly announced its results on Tuesday.

Dr. Ittai Gradel is a Dutch art dealer who tried to alert senior museum officials in 2021 about stolen items appearing in eBay listings for as little as $51. His attempts to alert former director Hartwig Fischer and deputy director Jonathan Williams were dismissed.

Fischer publicly stated on August 23 that he took Gradel’s allegations seriously, but then immediately stepped down two days later instead of early 2024 as previously announced. “I also misjudged the remarks I made earlier this week about Dr Gradel,” Fischer said. “I wish to express my sincere regret and withdraw those remarks.”

Gradel said the museum’s recently published independent review was “ridiculous.”

“They do not have a single word about anyone within the British Museum doing anything whatsoever wrong at any point in time here,” he told the BBC. “There is absolutely zero accountability for anything that has gone wrong here.

Williams agreed to “step back from his duties” as a result of the thefts but is still employed with the museum.

Osborne also said that the staff member believed to have stolen or damaged approximately 2,000 objects over 30 years was not cooperating with the institution’s search.

“One of the things that we’ve got to get to the bottom of is exactly the motivation of the individual who we believe is responsible,” Osborne told the BBC on Tuesday. “But he has not been talking or co-operating.”

News reports identified the fired staff member as Peter Higgs, a senior curator who even served as an expert in the case of a 2,000-year-old marble statue that was repatriated to Libya in 2021.

It’s also worth noting how much Gradel has contributed to the museum’s recovery process of its stolen items so far. According to the BBC, the museum has identified 651 items, 351 of which have been handed back — all of them except one coming from Gradel.

Gradel told the BBC he bought many of the items in batches, “maybe £50 per gem”, and most were returned based on circumstantial evidence due to lack of catalogue information. Damage to the objects included the destruction of approximately 350 gold mounts, “possibly melted down for their scrap value”, as well as tool marks on 140 other items.