Kathryn Thomson

All change

Kathryn Thomson, 06.12.2016
NMNI's director on the museum service's restructure 
I am now nine months into my new role as the director and chief executive at National Museums Northern Ireland, which has three museums – Ulster Museum; Ulster Folk & Transport Museum; and Ulster American Folk Park. As someone coming in from outside the museum sector, who most recently worked at Tourism NI, I have been on a steep learning curve.

But it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to learn so much about what we do, why we do it and how we can improve the lives of those who live, work, learn in and visit Northern Ireland.

One of my highlights in recent months was attending the Museums Association conference in Glasgow, where I was speaking in a directors in conversation session alongside David Mann from the Scottish Maritime Museum, Tonya Nelson from UCL Museums and Collections, and Gordon Rintoul from National Museums Scotland.

As well as meeting so many colleagues from across the sector at the conference I had the chance to gain invaluable insights into, and be inspired by, how others have embraced and responded to the challenges and opportunities we all face.

Within that context one of my main challenges has been how we best respond to ongoing reductions in our core funding and develop services that more clearly define and extend the role, purpose and relevance of our museums in the future.

As a result, we are now embarking on a transformational change programme at National Museums Northern Ireland to establish an operating model with a much more integrated focus on audiences and with greater long-term sustainability.
 
As part of this process I’m establishing a new directorate structure and creating three new strategic director roles to lead the future development of the organisation.
 
Key drivers are to create a more cohesive and collaborative approach to the delivery of services and to further develop external partnerships that will drive greater creativity and innovation.

The new leadership team will comprise a director of collections, with responsibility for all curatorial services and the research, care, management and development of the national collections; a director of public engagement, who will lead the development and coordination of all of the public facing services that facilitate engagement with the national collections through exhibitions, interpretation, events, programming and outreach; and a chief operating officer to lead the design and implementation of an organisational change programme.
 
Kathryn Thomson is the director and chief executive of National Museums Northern Ireland. More details about the new posts is now available on the Museums Association’s Find a Job search.

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