Houlihan chosen because of ‘distinguished record of leadership’

News from Te Papa – January 13, 2010
The Chairman and Board of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa are pleased to confirm the appointment of Michael Houlihan as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the museum. Michael Houlihan will come to New Zealand from his current role as head of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, a family of seven museums across Wales.

The Chairman of Te Papa, John Judge, said that a comprehensive national and international search for the museum’s leader has been undertaken since the sudden death of Dr. Seddon Bennington in July.

The overriding consideration of the Board was to appoint the most capable person to lead the strategic direction of the museum in the future. The board of Te Papa have chosen Mr Houlihan in light of his distinguished record of leadership in the museum world and his particular skills in complex cultural and bilingual museum establishment and management.

Mr Houlihan has extensive museum experience having started his career as a research assistant at the Imperial War Museum, becoming Keeper of Permanent Exhibitions and Head of Exhibitions Research before joining the Horniman Museum in London as Deputy Director and then Director from 1994. He was appointed the first Chief Executive of the newly amalgamated National Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland in 1998, later joining Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in 2003.

Mr Houlihan has experience of working in bilingual and complex cultural settings in both Wales and Northern Ireland, which will undoubtedly shape his approach to this role:

“I am excited about the challenges and different perspectives that I will face in this new role. Museums can’t shy away from telling national stories, no matter how intricate or controversial they may be, and Te Papa is world famous for its innovative approach to demonstrating how culture and community memory has moulded the history and identity of New Zealand’s communities.”

Te Papa is a bicultural museum and any incoming Chief Executive will be supported by the dual leadership role of Kaihautū (Māori leader), Michelle Hippolite.

The partnership between the Chief Executive and Kaihautū reflects the bicultural nature of the Museum. Te Papa acknowledges the unique position of Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand and the need to secure their participation in the governance, management, and operation of the Museum.

Acting Chief Executive and Kaihautū, Michelle Hippolite, said that she is delighted to welcome Mr Houlihan to the Team at Te Papa and is looking forward to working with him to lead the future development of Te Papa for all New Zealanders.

Mike Houlihan started his museum career as a Research Assistant in the Department of Exhibits at the Imperial War Museum, London, becoming Keeper of the Department of Permanent Exhibitions and Head of Exhibitions Research. He joined the Horniman Museum in south London as Deputy Director in 1984, and was appointed Director in 1994. The Horniman holds internationally recognized collections of musical instruments and world cultures, as well as natural history.

In 1998, he was appointed as the first Chief Executive of the newly created National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, steering through the merger of Northern Ireland’s three government funded museums. In 2003, he became Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, a family of seven museums illustrating the history, industries and natural environment of Wales as well as important international collections of art. He is Chairman of ICOM UK and was previous Chair of the Collections Trust. He has published on military history and has a particular interest in the experience of the British Soldiers on the Western Front, 1914-18.

 

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