Diane Lees to step down as director-general of IWM - Museums Association

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Diane Lees to step down as director-general of IWM

Institution’s first female head will leave in 2023 after 15 years
Diane Lees most recently oversaw the completion of the new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries at IWM London
Diane Lees most recently oversaw the completion of the new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries at IWM London © Ella Pellegrini IWM

Imperial War Museums (IWM) director-general Diane Lees has announced that she is stepping down next year after 15 years at the organisation.

Lees will leave on 31 March 2023. She joined IWM in 2008, becoming the first female director-general of the institution since it was founded in 1917.  

During her tenure, Lees led IWM through one of the most transformative periods in its history, overseeing its central role in the four-year first world war centenary commemorations and the opening of new First World War Galleries at IWM London in 2014. She co-commissioned the critically acclaimed Peter Jackson documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, and most recently saw the completion of the London site’s Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries in 2021.

Lees was awarded a CBE in 2015 and received a damehood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in January 2022 for services to museums. 

She said: “It has been an honour to serve as IWMs’ director-general. Over the past 14 years I have had the privilege of growing and transforming the organisation, most recently with the opening of the new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries.

“The museum, and the sector more generally, have undergone huge change since I began in 2008 and I feel proud to have been at the helm throughout this significant period. I have had the privilege to have worked with so many incredible IWM staff, trustees, partners, veterans and Holocaust survivors, who have made being director-general a rewarding and extraordinary experience.”

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Matthew Westerman, chairman of IWM’s board of trustees, said: “I thank Di for her extraordinary service to IWM. She has built on the work of those that preceded her and led the museum with distinction, working with her leadership teams, staff and volunteers to transform the museum into the institution that it is today.”

Recruitment for IWM’s next director-general will begin immediately and will be guided by the board of trustees, with the formal appointment made by the prime minister.

IWM has five museum sites across England: IWM London, Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast in London, IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire and IWM North in Greater Manchester.

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