The British Museum reported that plans to digitize its entire permanent collection, which numbers more than eight million exhibitsas reported by the server ARTNews. The museum announced the move as part of ongoing efforts to increase security and make works accessible to the public. Already in August, the museum drew attention to the theft of thousands of exhibits, including more than 1,500 historical artifacts, the digitization announcement is thus a response to this event.
The project will request documenting and digitizing more than 2.4 million works and its completion is estimated to take more than five years so sometime in 2029 you will be able to view the museum’s collection virtually. Digitization is an expensive process – The British Museum will spend a total of $12.1 million on the process.
“I believe the most important response to the thefts is to increase access, because the better the collection is known – and the more it is used – the sooner we notice any absences,” interim museum director Mark Jones said in a statement.
Although the main motivation of the digitization project is the mentioned thefts, with this announcement, the museum is also trying to fend off requests for repatriation and returning items. The chairman of the museum’s board, George Osborne, said they planned to use digitization in response to such requests.
However, the museum currently does not have the money to complete the project, but promises to funds will be obtained through private investors and will not ask the taxpayers or the British government. The museum has already digitized half of its collections as part of a project launched in 2020.