20 December 2007

The National Museum Directors' Conference welcomes three new members:

  • Dr. Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
  • Rita McLean, Head of Museums & Heritage Services, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
  • Mark O'Neill, Head of Arts and Museums at Culture and Sport Glasgow

They join Alec Coles, Director of Tyne and Wear Museums, another recent recruit to the NMDC, bringing membership to a total of 31 Directors.

There are no immediate plans for further expansion of NMDC membership.

NMDC Chair Mark Jones said: "The National Museum Directors' Conference is delighted to welcome four Directors of outstanding museums to its membership. I have no doubt they will each make a valuable contribution to the work of the group."

Notes to Editors

1. About NMDC
The National Museum Directors' Conference represents the leaders of the UK's national collections. Our members operate in over 100 locations around the UK. While our members are funded by government, the NMDC is an independent and non-governmental organisation. The NMDC was founded in 1929, in anticipation of a Royal Commission recommendation that the national collections should 'coordinate their work and discuss matters of mutual concern'. Today the NMDC provides its membership with a valuable forum for discussion and debate and an opportunity to share information and work collaboratively.

2. About our new members

Dr. Christopher Brown

Dr Christopher Brown has been Director of The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology since 1998. Previously he was Curator of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings and then Chief Curator of the National Gallery, London, where he worked from 1971 to 1998. He was author of numerous articles, books and exhibition catalogues on Dutch and Flemish paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly the work of Rubens, Van Dyck and Rembrandt.

Founded in 1683, The Ashmolean is the oldest museum in Britain and the greatest university museum in the world. It holds the richest collections of art and archaeology in any museum in England outside London. The museum is currently undergoing a £61 million development which involves the demolition of a large part of the museum and its replacement by a new building (attached to the original 1845 museum) of 10,000 square metres which will provide 35 new permanent exhibition galleries, large temporary exhibition galleries, conservation studios, an education centre and other facilities. The architect is Rick Mather and the two principal funders are the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Linbury Trust.

Alec Coles

Alec Coles has been Director of Tyne & Wear Museums (TWM) since 2002. TWM is one of Britains largest and most successful regional museums services and runs 11 museums on behalf of six funding clients and attracts over 1.5 million visits each year. It also leads the North Easts Regional Museums Hub under the Governments Renaissance in the Regions programme.

Alec was previously Chief Executive of Northumberland Wildlife Trust where he developed the people and wildlife agenda and sought to raise the social as well as environmental profile of the Trust. Prior to this he spent over ten years in various roles at TWM, including manager of the Hancock Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne, and spent his early career at Woodspring Museum in Weston-super-Mare (now North Somerset Museums Service).

Rita McLean

Rita McLean has been Head of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery since 2006 and is the Executive Lead Officer for the West Midlands Hub Museums under the Governments Renaissance in the Regions programme. She has worked in the UK museums and heritage sector for 25 years in a range of local authority and independent museum posts. During her career, Rita has led on a wide range of major museum development projects including the restoration and refurbishment of Soho House during the early 1990s. She is currently overseeing the development of Aston Hall and Park and the implementation of the first phases of a masterplan for Birminghams central Museum and Art Gallery. She has also been active in the development and application of a range of access and equalities programmes and workforce diversity initiatives.

Birmingham Museums Service is the largest local authority museums service in England. In addition to the central Museum & Art Gallery the service comprises six other museums and encompasses responsibility for Birmingham City Councils heritage strategy and public art portfolio.

Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill was appointed Head of Arts and Museums for Glasgow City Council in 2005, having previously been Head of Glasgow Museums since 1998. He began his museum career in Glasgow in 1986, working for a local trust to establish a museum in Springburn, a multiply deprived area in North Glasgow. In 1990 he was appointed Keeper of Social History in Glasgow City Council's museum service. He worked with the Education Department to set up the Open Museum, Glasgow's innovative and award-winning outreach service. He originated the concept for and established the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, one of only four museums of religion in the world. His main project for the past ten years has been the Heritage Lottery funded £30 million redisplay of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the most visited museum in Britain outside London. Kelvingrove reopened on 11 July 2006 and received over three million visits within the first year of opening. He has published and lectured extensively on museum philosophy and practice.