The chief executive of Te Papa Mike Houlihan is leaving the national museum, and being seconded to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
TV3 News, which was first to report his departure, also reported that the museum is undergoing a financial investigation. Independent accountants PriceWaterhouse Coopers and project managers Tregaskis Brown have been brought in to look at the national museum’s books and investigate if it is properly managing its finances.
Asked about Mr Houlihan’s performance, Te Papa’s board chairman Evan Williams told 3 News: “There’s nothing in particular that I need to explain to you. It’s not an issue that’s relevant any more.”
Mr Houlihan, who has been at Te Papa for four years, is to become a Special Adviser on Military Heritage at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. He will start this job on 12 May. His responsibilities will include advising on management of New Zealand’s military heritage stories and collections, advising on the public value of museums and collections in terms of their social, economic and cultural impact; and on the Government’s wider international diplomacy initiatives.
Evan Williams said last night the Board has “appreciated Mike’s visionary leadership and strong museological contribution to Te Papa. He has made a significant contribution leading Te Papa’s new vision and restructure to create a solid platform for the future of the Museum, as well as developing the new direction of art, and building the Museum’s international and cultural diplomacy profile, with China in particular. He will continue to advise on Te Papa’s World War I commemoration programme, including the ANZAC exhibition that will open in 2015.”
The Te Papa Board is to appoint an Acting Chief Executive, while an international search for a new Chief Executive is undertaken.
Mike Houlihan had previously held the position of Keeper of the Department of Permanent Exhibitions and Head of Exhibitions Research at the Imperial War Museum in London. He has published widely on military history and is an international authority on military history with a specialist focus on the Western Front, 1914–18. As the first Chief Executive of National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, he undertook the merger of Northern Ireland’s three government-funded museums. In 2003, he became Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, a single entity including seven museums illustrating the national story of Wales.