Belfast Telegraph

Museums misplace £50,000 of treasures

Northern Ireland's museums, have lost or misplaced over £50,000 of exhibits in the last eight years.

The figure was revealed by Culture Minister Nelson McCausland, responding to an Assembly question by SDLP MLA Thomas Burns. It takes in items that have gone missing in the Ulster Museum, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Ulster American Folk Park and Armagh County Museum.

Among the £51,153.75 worth of treasures misplaced were a £30,000 Bateson coffee pot, a £5,000 paten (a plate that forms part of a communion set), a £4,000 drawing of a corncrake and a £2,000 linen cart.

All of these items were among the £46,012.50 of treasures that subsequently turned up again a year or two later as part of the museums’ annual audits. But items yet to be unearthed include a £300 bed cover, a £400 turf barrow and a £125 tea cosy.

And while museums are keen to make their treasures more accessible to visitors, the policy is not without its downside as light-fingered visitors take advantage and make off with a few treasures that they aren’t entitled to. Since 2003, £1,550 worth of treasures have been pinched from our museums.

A spokesperson for National Museums Northern Ireland said: “National Museums Northern Ireland is the custodian of more than one million items. Our duty is to both preserve the collections as well as display as many as possible to the general public.

“The vast majority of the lost items have been minor and replaceable and include items such as spectacles and a lamp. While security policies are in place to best safeguard the collections, we also have a responsibility to ensure visitors to the museums can enjoy the collections in their context and as part of their museum experience.”

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