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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stealing From Inside the Museum - Egyptian Artifacts Theft in Long Island Proves the Point

Loss prevention at a museum starts by examining internal practices. When pieces are missing from a museum, the first place to look for a suspect is inside. Fortunately, a museum's risk can be reduced by performing thorough background checks on prospective employees and by creating moderate institutional oversight practices.

While the vast majority of museum employees are honest and trustworthy, there are many unfortunate instances where missing objects turn up in the hands of museum workers. Last week the New York Post reported that a federal court sentenced the director of the Long Island University Hillwood Museum to a year and a day in prison plus a $5000 fine for stealing Egyptian artifacts from his own museum. Barry Stern admitted to exacting revenge on his employer when his contract as museum director was not renewed. He worked 22 years for the university.

The Post describes how Stern stole the artifacts from the museum, brought them to Christie's for auction, and claimed they came from the Barry Stern collection. Records of the objects' existence at the Hillwood Museum were wiped out. The pieces earned Stern $51,500.

(As a side note, one wonders how the auction house failed to conduct enough due diligence regarding the provenance of the objects, particularly where the pieces presumably had accession numbers associated with the objects.)

The International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection helps cultural institutions minimize the risk of theft. Any of our colleagues can assist museums with internal loss prevention. www.ifcpp.org


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/li_museum_director_sentenced_for_m8ewK4q1OIOWlINeCC4BRN#ixzz13BvQpl1L