British Museum: New boss Nicholas Cullinan says he will lead 'new chapter' after thefts

Nicholas Cullinan
Nicholas Cullinan looks forward to leading the museum "into a new chapter" [Getty Images]

Nicholas Cullinan, the new director of the British Museum, has said he is looking forward to leading the institution in a "new chapter" following a major theft scandal.

He said he would oversee "the most significant transformations, both architectural and intellectual".

The outgoing National Portrait Gallery director starts in the summer, taking over from interim head Sir Mark Jones.

Sir Mark replaced Hartwig Fischer, who resigned after museum gems were stolen.

Mr Cullinan called his new job an "honour".

"I look forward to joining its wonderful and dedicated staff... in leading it into a new chapter," he said, adding this would "encompass the most significant transformations, both architectural and intellectual, happening in any museum globally, to continue making the British Museum the most engaged and collaborative it can be".

His appointment was approved by the board of trustees and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

As well as his plans for the London museum, he will have to deal with the aftermath and impact of its proceedings against former staff member Peter Higgs, who they believe stole and damaged at least 1,800 of its items.

'Proven leadership'

Dr Higgs worked within the museum's department of Greece and Rome from 1999 until the summer of 2023 and has denied all the claims.

Mr Cullinan was made director of the capital's National Portrait Gallery in April 2015, and recently oversaw its three-year refurbishment and reopening.

The art historian, who was made an OBE for services to the arts in the 2024 King's New Years Honours list, previously worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

George Osborne, the museum's chair, said Mr Cullinan "brings proven leadership today and great potential for tomorrow".

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer added: "I look forward to Nick sharing his vision for the museum, including how he will strengthen its world-leading partnerships, deliver the next phase of its major capital project, and ensure the museum's magnificent collections are enjoyed for generations to come."

She thanked Sir Mark, who was director of the V&A between 2001 and 2011, for his leadership and "providing stability to the organisation during a difficult period".