Peter John Higgs, a prominent curator who worked at the British Museum for 30 years, has been identified in the UK by two large format mediaas the person allegedly responsible for the theft of priceless artifacts from the museum’s collection, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reports.
Higgs is believed to have operated undetected for years and swiped unclassified items from the museum’s collection before selling them on e-commerce site eBay. THE report In The Daily Telegraph The newspaper says items from the museum’s collection first appeared on eBay as early as 2016.
Higgs reportedly took small gold jewelry, as well as gemstones, from the collection, some of which date back to ancient Rome. The items in question are thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds.
The museum yesterday announced an independent review of why Higgs may have removed items from the collection without detection; the review is sure to ask some tough questions about what appears to be a massive security flaw. Leading figures in the UK museum sector are today asking whether the British Museum can still be seen as the responsible custodian of its collection, which includes many objects of disputed provenance.
The law firm Art Recovery International, specializing in restitution matters, posted on Xformerly known as Twitter: “Maybe the Parthenon Marbles aren’t safe in the UK after all.”
Higgs was first employed by the museum in 1993 and served as a senior curator as the museum’s head of department for Greece and Rome. He is known as one of the museum’s so-called “monument men” and was the main curator of the exhibition Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroeswhich was staged at the museum in 2021 and is currently on tour.
The Daily Telegraph The report says an anonymous antiquities expert told the museum about the illicit activity three years ago, but the museum only acted by firing Higgs earlier this year. He is now making the decision to go public with the news, which comes shortly after it was announced director Hartwig Fischer would leave his post at the museum early next year.
Higgs was identified as the alleged thief when he began selling items which, unlike previous pieces, had been comprehensively cataloged by the museum and could therefore be traced back to its digital inventory. Although he operated under a pseudonym on eBay, a portal on his Paypal account was linked to his Twitter feed, on which he used his real name.
On the British Museum website, Higgs is pictured with a 2,000-year-old Libyan statue, which was in the process of being sent back to its home country after being trafficked across Europe.
In the Telegraph report, Higgs’ family said he was innocent of any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. No arrests have yet been made, although the British Museum has pledged to prosecute if arrested.