British Museum secures treasure
The governments decision to appoint Neil MacGregor, successful
Director of the National Gallery, London, to the even more prestigious
post of Director of the British Museum, is wise. Known as a
national treasure for his brilliant curatorship of the National
Gallery over the past 15 years, MacGregor was the obvious choice.
It could be that the ever-canny MacGregor secured agreement from
Her Majestys Government to reduce or even write off
the massive 3 million debt accumulated at the British Museum
as a condition of moving in.
Mr MacGregor joins at the height of his career. The British Museum has recently received the resignation of the first Managing Director of the Museum, Suzanna Taverne. She had expressed doubt as to whether Peter Scott, the Chairman of the British Museum, could find the scholar-director with great management ability whom they sought. In a swipe at the value of scholarship, she had questioned whether that quality was the defining aspect. Taverne, a city shooting star with experience at Saatchi and Saatchi, Pearsons and in banking, still failed to understand that, as in MacGregors case, scholarship is simply a quid pro quo: an underlying quality which can be developed by high managerial talent and diplomacy into an unbeatable combination. MacGregor has accompanied such talent with a rare degree of balanced professionalism and unselfish dedication. Unlike other current superstar curators, he has the rare skill of directing attention to the institution itself rather than the director.