Heist at Bergen University Museum

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by Annika Backe

November 16, 2017 – When the staff of the Museum of Bergen University, Norway arrived at their place of work on August 14, 2017 they were faced with an alarming sight. Their offices on the 5th and the 6th floor of the building at Muséplass 3 had been rifled through. However, much more serious was a loss of another kind. Thieves had stolen a large number of objects from the storage rooms located on the 7th floor. Therefore, the investigating authorities and the University were asking the international public for help. 

Bergen University Museum, founded in 1825. Photo: Nina Aldin Thuna / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Since 2014, the building that houses the collection of cultural history has undergone a major University refurbishment project. The burglars are likely to have gained access to the upper floors on the evening of August 12, 2017 via a scaffold.
They stole about 400 small-scale objects dating to the time of ca. 600 BC – AD 1030 from the material that was already sorted in preparation of an upcoming exhibition. The objects are easy to transport and consist of jewelry, coins and metal fittings, among other things. A major part of them had been found in Viking burials from the Norwegian counties of Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Rogaland, and Sunnmore.
Although the alarm by the scaffold went off twice the relevant evening, the security company in charge did not find anything unusual during the inspection of the building’s exterior. 

Museum Director Henrik von Achen was shocked by this theft. On the website of Bergen University, he says: “To us as a museum, taking care of our cultural heritage is the most important thing we do. The stolen objects do not have great economical value, but are of great historical importance. We can only hope that what is lost will be returned, and work to make sure this does not happen again. I feel a heavy responsibility.” Both the leaders of the museum and the University of Bergen expressed complete trust in the employees.

To regain the important testimonies of Norway’s culture and history, Interpol and the World Customs Organizsation were liaising in the investigations. Bergen University turned to the general public for help. Under the title “Burglary at the University Museum of Bergen” (“Tyveriet pa Historisk museum”), a Facebook page was created to which pictures of the objects missing were being uploaded, in order to make them publicly known and thus more difficult to sell. If anybody recognized an object from the Museum, he or she was kindly asked to report this. It only took an email to do so. 

Latest news raise hope that the crime will be solved soon. On November 13, 2017 University Bergen called it a “day of joy” on their website when they learned that Norwegian Police had arrested four suspects, and that the Museum thus got about two third of the artefacts back. The good documentation on the internet is believed to have served as a major advantage. Officials said that the next task involved an assessment of the objects’ damages due to uncaring treatment since the burglary. As for the objects that are still missing, the Museum continues to count on the international public. 

Here you will find the stolen coins.

You can visit the mentioned Facebook page by clicking here. 

To have a look at the coins missing at Flickr, click here.

All relevant background information and latest news can be found on the website of Bergen University.

This is the ICOM news released on this incident.