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Thefts from Norfolk’s museums - and damage to objects - revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:46 27 August 2014 | UPDATED: 17:46 27 August 2014

The mourning ring which has been stolen from Norwich Castle Museum.

The mourning ring which has been stolen from Norwich Castle Museum.

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Bosses at Norfolk Museums Service have defended their security record, after details of further thefts from the county’s museums were revealed.

Historic items connected to Lord Nelson, worth more than £36,000, were stolen in February 2012, after an attempt was made to snatch a rhino horn five days earlier.

The items stolen included a £25,000 mourning ring and a £10,000 saucer from an 1802 tea service which was part of the inventory at Lord Nelson’s home.

Two bronze medals, worth £400 each, were also taken, along with a gilt medal box containing four medallions. They have not been recovered.

Those crimes made headlines, but a Freedom of Information request has revealed other items have also been stolen from the county’s museums over the past two years.

A medieval seal matrix, a 16th century key, a mid 20th century enamel bowl and a set of modern candles have also been stolen. But bosses say a full security review means improvements have been made.

Steve Miller, head of Norfolk Museums Service, said: “Along with ensuring the widest possible access to the many treasures in our care, Norfolk Museums Service places considerable priority on security and prior to 2012 we had an exemplary security record.

“Following the well-publicised theft from Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in early 2012, we undertook a thorough internal review of our security systems and also requested that the National Security Advisor for the Arts Council carried out a full security review.

“We made subsequent improvements, where required, at some of our sites, extending CCTV coverage and increasing the use of localised alarm systems for both display cases and other areas of our 10 museums.”

A council spokesman said, with 400,000 visits per year, the low number of thefts showed high standards of security and curatorship.

The Freedom of Information request also revealed damage to objects. In September 2012, artist Susan Gunn was brought in to repair her 2007 work Dark Matter 1, after it was broken while being moved.

Various 19th and 20th century social history items had to be dried out after they were damaged by a leak in December last year.

A mahogany cabinet dating back to 1765 had to be repaired in September last year after a finial was broken off - probably by a museum visitor.

New branches had to be made for a glass chandelier after it was knocked and broken while being cleaned, while a medieval wooden carved relief had to be fixed after the pins mounting it in a display case failed.

• Do you have a crime story? Call crime correspondent Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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