Appointments Museums United Kingdom

British Museum’s Neil MacGregor will retire on a high

“Extraordinary contribution” praised as director sets sights on Mumbai and Berlin

British Museum director Neil MacGregor

Neil MacGregor is to retire as director of the British Museum in London. Now 68, he will step down at the end of December, after 13 years in the post. He is likely to be regarded as among the museum’s greatest directors in its 263-year history, particularly because of his success in developing international links and making the collection relevant to the issues of today.

MacGregor told staff on 8 April that he will find it very difficult to leave the museum, saying that working there has been “the greatest privilege of my professional life”. He added: “I’ve decided that now is the time to retire from full-time employment and the end of this year seems a good time to go.” Among the museum’s recent achievements is last year’s opening of a new extension, which includes a temporary exhibition gallery (currently with a show on Greek sculpture, until 5 July), vast storage facilities and conservation studios. Visitor numbers have been rising, reaching a record 6.7 million last year (making it the world’s second most popular museum after the Louvre). These achievements have been made against a background of severe cuts in government funding.

On his retirement, MacGregor plans to work on three projects. He will present a BBC Radio 4 series on “Faith and Society”. He plans to advise on displays at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum in Mumbai, which he describes as “one of the finest and most active museums in South/Southeast Asia”. Most importantly, he will chair an advisory board to make recommendations to the German minister of culture, Monika Grütters, on how Berlin’s Humboldt-Forum should present world cultures.

Richard Lambert, who took over as the museum’s chairman last July, paid tribute to MacGregor’s “extraordinary contribution”. The trustees have now started the process of looking for a successor for what he says will be “one of the best and most challenging jobs of its kind in the world”. The search for the right candidate will be international.

More from The Art Newspaper


10 Apr 15
15:23 CET


When we think of leaders we think of the names Jobs, Gates, Branson, Welch and co. For me Neil MacGregor is right up there with them. He has been instrumental in the development of an institution and creation of a legacy the country can be proud of and educating and bringing pleasure to millions

Submit a comment

All comments are moderated. If you would like your comment to be approved, please use your real name, not a pseudonym. We ask for your email address in case we wish to contact you - it will not be made public and we do not use it for any other purpose.


Want to write a longer comment to this article? Email


Share this