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#422192 - 11/16/11 07:57 AM The Governor's Finest Silver Stolen
Marty Offline
In the Styrofoam and plastic era, fine silverware is a faded memory - almost a museum piece.

In fact, that's just what it was at the House of Culture - where the Governor's finest silver was part of the permanent collection at what used to be the Government House.

Well, now a few prize pieces have been stolen. But no one knows how or when the silver was stolen, or who done it. We went to the former cradle of colonial power - and found that they practice the kind of security that would make old Queen Victoria proud:..

Jules Vasquez Reporting
This is the cabinet from which the precious silverware was taken. A blank space is all that's left. The list of stolen items includes: A cigar box, A 10 inch teapot with a floral design, A teapot that is inscribed with the words VR Government House on it, A tureen - which is used to keep food warm, also inscribed VR Government House, Another more oval tureen and a pair of napkin holders - also inscribed.

Six items - none of them tiny - that just walked off the shelf at the House of Culture.

Sherilyne L. Jones, Director Museum of Belize/House of Culture
"We discovered it last week Wednesday; we notice that the display case was empty. some of the shelves had missing items and that's when we called the police to report that the items were missing."

Jules Vasquez
"Was there any forced entry?"

Sherilyne L. Jones
"None that we could discover that the police have indicated to us. No, no force entry."

Jules Vasquez
"But this is a facility that is open to walk-in visitors?"

Sherilyne L. Jones

Jules Vasquez
"And it is an unsecured area?"

Sherilyne L. Jones
"For the most part. We don't have armed guards at every turn."

In fact the only security presence is outside at the police booth - there are no guards inside and visitors can lead themselves through a tour.

The building is open and the cabinet is unlocked.

Sherilyne L. Jones
"We have never had any of the display cases under lock and key, not from the history of the House been open. We felt pretty much secure with our staff and the people that come in on a daily basis."

It is difficult to put a value on the stolen items: they date back to the 1800's- and are priceless:

Sherilyne L. Jones
"To be quite honest because the pieces are of our national heritage and part of the collection of national antiquities - it hard to put a dollar amount. With any artifacts that are sold on the black market is what the buyer is willing to pay for the item. For me to say this piece is $500.00 or $1,000.00 I cant."

Marion Ali - Love News
"It dates back how far in history?"

Sherilyne L. Jones
"They all date from the 1800s. They are silverware that was commissioned for the Government House and so they have some intricate markings on them. A couple are marked VR for when Queen Victoria reigned. There is a couple that's marked ER for obviously Queen Elizabeth reign and then there is two napkin holders that's from King George. It was part of the Government House, when the governors occupied the house - these were there household everyday items. The fact that the House isn't used for that purpose anymore we had them on display so people could understand the history and understand the importance they played in our past. Like I said these items are irreplaceable. It's not like I can go out to Brodies and buy a silver pot because its engraved Government House, particularly it was commissioned for the House."

Commissioned for the House and now stolen from it - when? Sometime in the past 9 weeks!

Sherilyne L. Jones
"Inventory was conducted at the end of August when the curator was here to clean and polish all the silverware, so a complete inventory was done sometime between then and last week, that's when we realized that a few of the pieces were missing."

But they didn't all go missing at once; a picture shows that they were gradually removed:

Sherilyne L. Jones
"We have a picture from September 25, where we can clearly see that only one piece was missing at that point."

Marion Ali - Love News
"When was it discovered missing?"

Sherilyne L. Jones
"We just discovered that when we were doing our investigation. We take pictures randomly but because the allege individual was very cunning. They moved and shifted the objects around so upon first glance you wouldn't notice that instead of five items there is only four, because it was shifted."

Jules Vasquez
"So then would that not indicate that it is an employee or somebody with access to the place."

Sherilyne L. Jones
"I wouldn't want to speculate on that, like I said police investigation continues."

And now the house of culture will have to cease having security practices like when the Governor still ruled:

Sherilyne L. Jones
"This incident has highlighted the fact that we are in a different time and we are looking at our security overall and we are going to address those within the next couple weeks. There are more objects that are more valuable in the House that is still here. Why they chose those particular pieces I am not sure. Internally we have interview individual staff members and again the police is continuing with their investigation but we thought we would mention it and bring the media out or into the fold at this point so that the public is aware that these items are out there either locally or internationally that if somebody comes across it or have information they could contact us could help to the successful recovery of these items."

There is a reward being offered, but Victorian modesty, we presume, forbids NICH staff from saying how much the reward is. True, as strange as it sounds, no matter how we pressed, they could not tell us what the reward is! We do hope it is a princely sum for the King's finest wares.

You can call collect to 223-4524 if you have information.

#422198 - 11/16/11 08:02 AM Re: The Governor's Finest Silver Stolen [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Empire’s old Colonial relics stolen from HOC

There is a burglary of major historic proportions to report tonight. Exactly a week ago, it was discovered that thieves had stolen a number of priceless antiquities from the House of Culture. The burglary was not reported in the daily police blotter but we can say that the items have historical importance and form part of the national colonial collection of the past governors who resided at the then Governor’s House. Belize City police are trying to unravel who stole eight vintage pieces of silverware which were on display at the gallery inside the left wing of the building. The antiquities, the oldest of which dates back to the early nineteenth century, include a cigar box; two teapots, one with floral embellishments and another with the words ‘VR Government House’ engraved on it.Two round tureens, also with the ‘VR Government House’ imprint; an oval tureen with the inscription ‘ER Government House’ and a pair of napkin holders also etched with the words ‘GRI Government House, are also missing. The theft is as baffling as that of the arsenal stolen from the BDF armory in Price Barracks last October but it pales in historical importance. While the assets are not directly under guard the House of Culture has a twenty-four hour police surveillance at the gates. An inventory of all relics on exhibit at the House of Culture was last conducted on September twenty-fifth, leaving a window of approximately five weeks during which the items went missing. They form part of an invaluable collection of Belize’s colonial patrimony. It is believed that the burglary may have been the result of an inside job since no signs of forced entry was detected at the building.

Sherilyne Jones

Sherilyne Jones, Director, Museum of Belize

“On November, in last week we noted that several items from the display case behind me were missing. We immediately called the police and they came in and they did their fingerprint analysis and they checked the House for signs of breaking and they are continuing their investigations.”

Isani Cayetano

“One of the obvious questions at this point is that this particular compound remains under twenty-four hour police guard, have they made any statements with regards to what may have happened that day?”

Sherilyn Jones

“Not yet, like I said they are continuing their investigation. They havent ruled out any possibilities or scenarios and as soon as they have completed that they will, you know, inform us to that regard.”

Isani Cayetano

“Can you give us an inventory of what specifically are missing?”

Sherilyn Jones

“There are eight pieces that are missing. Two teapots, they are silver; two tureens. Tureens are actually rounded bowls that you would serve soup or some sort of casserole meal. There are some napkin, two napkin holders that have also been missing and a warmer, a food warmer.”

Isani Cayetano

“My understanding is that these items are virtually priceless. They’ve been a staple here at the museum and they’ve withstood the test of time in terms of the reigns of several queens of England. Can you elaborate a bit on that for us?”

Sherilyn Jones

“Yes indeed. The pieces are actually commissioned, they were commissioned exactly for the Government House and they were used by the governors, successive governors throughout time. They are, a couple of them are engraved with [the letters] VR for when Queen Victoria reigned and they are marked VR Government House and other pieces are engraved ER Government House and that speaks of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. So the oldest piece dates back to the 1800s up until about 1901.”

NICH, the custodians of the national collection, is offering a reward for the successful recovery of the tableware that may have landed in the hands of art collectors. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the missing items is asked to call 223-4524.

Channel 5



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