One of the prongs on the sculpture of Neptune and Triton was knocked off Credit:V&A Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Nearly 1,000 precious items in Britain’s national museums and galleries have been damaged over the last decade as a result of careless handling, transit, vandalism and visitor accidents, it has emerged.Paintings, sculptures and historic artefacts have been left in need to repair after a string of incidents, including staff tripping over in the dark, children getting their hands on canvases and a leaking tin of Fray Bentos spoiling a display.A Freedom of Information request has revealed 966 works recorded as damaged across the British Museum, V&A, Tate, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum and Imperial War Museum.Among the casualties include works by Barbara Hepworth, Anish Kapoor, Mark Rothko, Damian Hirst, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Salvador Dali, Auguste Rodin, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, John Constable, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Message from a Friend, by Joan Miro, which was damagedCredit:Tate There have been mishaps at the British MuseumCredit:Alex Segre /Alamy And at Tate, Eve Rothschild’s Knock Knock, Jeremy Moon’s Untitled2/72, Joan Miro’s Message From a Friend, Christina Mackie’s Shakeman and David Batchelor’s I Love King’s Cross and King’s Cross Loves Me were all damaged by children touching them, while Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon was left with two small visible handprints in 2009.More innocent mistakes include a V&A hat stand damaged when a visitor used it to hang their coat, and an Imperial War Museum ration book spoiled when a corroded tin of Fray Bentos scotch broth soup leaked its contents over a display case.Hundreds of other items across the London museums were spoiled while being moved around museums or out on loan. The items were each repaired by the museum’s own conservation departments, with all declining to place a value on how much the works cost.A spokesman for the V&A said the damaged items comprised less than 0.015 per cent of the museum’s total collection, adding: “While every case of damage is a matter for regret, we are absolutely committed to good practice and careful risk management as we handle, display, move and store the objects in our care.”The British Museum said the collection was of the “utmost importance”, with damaged objects comprising 0.32 per cent of its total, adding: “But we also have a responsibility to make the collection accessible to a wide public.”The National Portrait Gallery said “rare and minor incidences” had been treated successfully with staff undergoing refresher training in object handling, the Science Museum said it regularly reviewed object protection policies and Tate insisted it has “relevant measures in place to ensure the protection and care of the artworks both in transit and on display”. Other works date back centuries, from Roman and Greek marble to Egyptian mummies and Bronze Age weapons. Causes of damage include knocks in transit, graffiti and the sticky fingers of young visitors permitted to get up close and personal with works of art.On several occasions, items were hit by catering staff setting up for events, including a 2008 V&A accident where a waiter knocked a prong off a 1622 marble Neptune and Triton trident with a crate of wine glasses, and a scrape to the frame of a National Portrait Gallery Harold Pinter painting in 2012 when it was bashed by a serving tray.At the British Museum, a clock was damaged when a visitor fell into the front of it, while an installation artwork by Sue Lawty was when a security guard tripped in a darkened gallery at the V&A. When asked for a list of objects damaged in the last decade, the British Museum admitted to 263 incidents, the V&A 335 and the Science Museum 217. The Imperial War Museum listed 53 items damaged, with 40 at the National Portrait Gallery, and six at the National Gallery.Tate conceded that 52 works of art had been damaged while under its supervision, but refused to include items that were on loan to its galleries fearing it would put future lenders off.The British Museum recorded 136 acts of graffiti including to the Neroid Monument’s large podium frieze, Didyma sculptures, the Payava Tomb, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and numerous marble and limestone statues, friezes, reliefs and coffins. I Love King’s Cross and King’s Cross Loves Me was damaged by childrenCredit:Tate At the National Portrait Gallery, three busts of eminent historical figures were vandalised with lipstick, a sculpture by Anthony Caro left with two marks to the forehead after a visitor struck it twice with a cane, and a statue of Victoria and Albert by William Theed was fractured after a member of the public tried to remove its sword.The National Gallery also suffered attacks from members of the public, with Constable’s The Hay Wain, Nicolas Poussin’s The Adoration of the Golden Calf and The Adoration of the Shepherds, and Domenico Veneziano’s Head of a Tonsured, Bearded Saint attacked with pens, paint and a superglued photograph on the canvas.At the Science Museum, 75 items were damaged by the actions of members of the public and another 40 damage by staff. The modern policy of encouraging children to interact in museums and galleries has also had an effect.At the V&A, a carved column dating from 1225-50 Sicily or Calabria suffered small fragments breaking away, “probably eroded by children climbing”.