Ton Cremers on “Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?” in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime
Columnist Ton Cremers speculates on the “Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?” in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.Mr. Cremers is a security consultant and the founder of The Museum Security Network (MSN). He was awarded the 2003 Robert B. Burke Award for excellence in cultural property protection. Here’s an excerpt:
The Museum Security Network (www.museum-security.org) has been on line since December 1996. In the past fifteen years over 40,000 reports have been disseminated about incidents with cultural property, such as thefts, fakes and forgeries, vandalism, and embezzlement. The number of thefts of sculptures from gardens and towns has grown tremendously, so much so that we have stopped trying to record all of them.
This year alone (and this is just a brief summary, far from complete) Stone Age axes were stolen from the Yorkshire Museum, a number of Lord Nelson artifacts were stolen from the Norwich Museum, as well as Buddhas from Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, artifacts worth £1.8m from Durham University’s Oriental Museum, watches from Silverton Country Historical Society museum, a lifeboat from RNLI’s museum; Museum Gouda (in The Netherlands) was robbed of a 17th century religious object, after the museum door was forced open using explosives; the National Gallery in Athens suffered a theft of Picasso and Mondrian paintings; and the Olympia Museum in Greece lost over 70 objects, after a early morning robbery. Thieves have wrenched the horns off stuffed rhinoceroses in European museums: Bamberg, Germany, Florence, Italy, Haslemere Educational Museum, Ritterhaus Museum Offenburg, Germany, Sworders Auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet, and more. Officials at Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, claim the number of thefts of rhinoceros horns has increased sharply in Europe during the past year. Since 2011, the agency has recorded 56 successful, and 10 attempted, thefts.
According to a U.K. report 75,000 heritage crimes were committed in one year (experts warn that the “alarming” figures show that Britain’s history is being destroyed in an “insidious and often irreversible way” for future generations): the study found nearly a fifth of the country’s 31,000 Grade I or II* buildings were subject to criminal acts, while more than 63,000 Grade II buildings were targeted. The report, compiled by the Council for British Archaeology and Newcastle and Loughborough universities, found that crimes such as metal theft were more likely to occur in the north, while at least 750 sites were hit by “devastating” arson attacks.
All together an alarming development, or is this just business as usual?
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