British Museum boss Neil MacGregor announces plans to retire

Emma Haslett
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Under MacGregor's leadership, the museum has become the UK's most popular tourist attraction (Source: British Museum/Jason Bell)

British Museum director Neil MacGregor has announced plans to retire at the end of 2015, after 13 years at the helm of the UK's most popular tourist attraction.

During his time at the museum, visitor numbers have increased from 4.6m a year in 2002/03, to 6.7m in 2014/15, making it the second most visited museum in the world.

MacGregor has presided over blockbuster exhibitions, including the Terracotta Army in 2007, "Grayson Perry: Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman" in 2011 and "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum" in 2013. He also made the museum a symbol of international diplomacy when he agreed to lend one of the Elgin Marbles - a headless imagining of the river god Ilissos - to Russia at the end of last year.

He has also overseen the museum's transformation, expanding its galleries and adding a new building.

Today MacGregor said although retiring had been "a very difficult [choice], the end of this year seems a good time to go".

The museum is now ready to embark on a new phase - deploying the collection to present different histories of the world. It is an exhilarating prospect.
He added that under the leadership of its new board chairman, former CBI boss Sir Richard Lambert, the museum is "in a strong position to respond to these energising challenges".
To everything it does the BM brings the highest levels of professionalism. Around the world it is a valued partner and the board has clearly defined the British Museum’s role as a worldwide resource for the understanding of humanity, to be made available as widely and as freely as possible.
Lambert added: "Neil MacGregor has been an outstanding director of the British museum and has made an extraordinary contribution to public life in the UK and beyond. The trustees are hugely grateful for everything he has done to bring the collection to life."

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