Giraffe tongue among 103 items stolen from National Museum

A giraffe’s tongue, a polar bear’s claws and ten war medals are among more than 100 items which have been stolen, gone missing or been damaged at the National Museums of Scotland since 2000.

A tongue from a giraffe in the National Museum of Scotland was torn out by vandals. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Last year the huge 20-inch tongue of their Namibian male giraffe was broken off by a vandal at Scotland’s national historic collection in Edinburgh.

Ten medals, including some thought to be for service in the Second World War, were found to be missing during an audit in 2003, which was not reported to the incident to the police.

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The information was revealed after a Freedom of Information request to the National Museums of Scotland. The documents returned revealed that in total 14 items have gone missing since 2000. They include the ten medals, most of which were awarded for service in combat and which date back to 1851. Among them is a 1916 Military Cross, thought to have been awarded for “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry”.

Other items reported missing were a pistol-shaped hip flask dating from 1884, a fabric wringer, a chain and a decorative horse harness.

The documents also showed that 63 items have been damaged since 2000, including seven aircraft.

Among these were a 1962 De Havilland Comet – the first ever commercial airliner, which had its access hatch at the rear door broken.

Antique chairs, military paintings, clocks, typewriters, 8th century Egyptian artefacts, 6th century Chinese models and a coffin in the shape of a Mercedes-Benz car from Ghana were also among the items damaged.

Eight items have been stolen by visitors at the museum, including two 15th century carved oak panels, three coins from the 15th century, an iron key, a quartz crystal from the US and a 30mm dummy round of ammunition.

A National Museums Scotland spokeswoman said: “National Museums Scotland cares for over 12 million objects in the national collections. Over the past 15 year period a very small proportion – under 0.001 per cent - have been damaged or cannot be located. We are committed to providing a programme of interesting and accessible displays and, in order to deliver such a programme, the movement, transportation and public display of collections is essential but can, in exceptional circumstances, result in minor damage.”

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