Resignations and new museums

This week's biggest museum news

This email was first sent to maxwell museum newsletter subscribers on Friday 28 May 2021

I begin with a *personal news klaxon*

This week I was lucky enough to write an article for the excellent Blooloop website, which is the world’s most read news source for visitor attractions professionals. It’s all about museums and TikTok and why they need to join NOW. The TLDR is that any delay in signing up risks missing out on the platform’s incredible potential to go viral. You can read the full version here, and if you enjoy it, do please share on your socials.

*sounding the klaxon again* This week I was also lucky enough to get my first coronavirus vaccine. And in a hugely on-brand move, it was at London’s Science Museum (I mean, where else was I gonna go!?) It was a special moment, not least because I used to work there when I first moved to London over a decade ago. Funny how things pan out.

On to this week’s news!


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This week’s top story

The fallout from the inquiry into BBC Panorama's Princess Diana interview spread into the museum world this week, as Lord Hall dramatically resigned as the Chair of the National Gallery. Hall was director of news when Martin Bashir used deception to get the 1995 scoop, and his continued presence would be a "distraction" for the Gallery he said. BBC News

Why it matters

Lord Hall was one of the most high profile Trustee chairs of any UK museum. His appointment in January 2020 was before he’d even finished his role as Director General of the BBC, meaning it was a huge coup for the Gallery to be his next major role. The National was no doubt hoping to use his profile, expertise and contact book for many more years. But the Sunday Times this weekend reported that Hall’s appointment as chairman was “made without the consultation of ministers or officials, causing dismay in Whitehall”. With the Government taking an ever increasing role in deciding who leads Britain’s cultural institutions, finding a suitable successor everyone is happy with might be a tricky task.


This week’s other stories

This is the best news of the week! The brand new (and much delayed) 13 storey Munch Museum will finally open its doors at its new Oslo waterfront location on October 22, 2021. I was lucky enough to tour the construction site in 2019 and it’s going to be incredible. Forbes


The National Trust has been all over the headlines this week as it’s chairman Tim Parker announced his resignation. Activists concerned by the Trust’s focus on investigating its historical links to slavery and colonialism claimed victory as they had plotted to oust him at the next AGM. Despite the Trust denying this had anything to do with his leaving, critics are now setting their sights on other Trust leaders they claim have a “highly woke agenda.” The Times

London has a new museum! One of the capital’s oldest police stations opens its cells to the public today, reinvented as the Bow Street Police Museum. It tells the story of the first professional police force in the city. Express and Star. (and if you’re planning a visit, make sure you pop into the boutique NoMad hotel which has also just opened in the same former Magistrates’ Court building.)

The English city of Derby has also been in on the new museum game this week, as the £18 million Museum of Making was unveiled. A redbrick mill has been reborn as a shrine to Derby’s astonishing manufacturing prowess AND it claims to display all 30,000 objects in its collection. The Guardian

The Louvre Museum - the world's most visited - gets its first female leader in its 228 year history. Laurence des Cars replaces outgoing Director Jean-Luc Martinez who was essentially sacked for *checks notes* growing visitor numbers past 10 million and holding the most attended exhibition in the Museum’s history. And they say politics is brutal. New York Times


The actual Cambridge office where Stephen Hawking revolutionised our understanding of the universe has been donated to the Science Museum. It’s going to be recreated at the venue for permanent display, and was donated to settle a £4.2 million tax bill. Evening Standard

"Irreplaceable" gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots to her execution in 1587 have been stolen in a raid on Arundel Castle in West Sussex. Gold and silver treasures worth a total of more than £1m were also taken. I really hope they can be recovered. Sky News

A pop-up Mayfair gallery is going to be set up by arts charity the Contemporary Arts Society (CAS), which helps museums and galleries buy new artworks. A cut of the proceeds from sales will go to CAS, and it coincides with next week’s London Gallery Weekend. The Art Newspaper

Worldwide museum-reopenings march on. After reopening seven museums earlier this month, the Smithsonian will begin to welcome visitors to it’s 10 other venues over a span of 11 weeks from next month. Hurrah! Washington Post


Love art, museums and galleries? Then my newsletter is for you, helping stay up-to-date on what to read - and what to see. Subscribe below (it’s free!)