The British Museum board appointed former Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) chief Mark Jones as interim director in the wake of the crisis over thefts from the institution's collection.
The development follows the resignation of Hartwig Fischer, who announced his immediate departure on 25 August after it emerged that thousands of objects may have been stolen from the museum's stores.
The British Museum's deputy director Jonathan Williams has also stepped back from normal duties. A senior curator has been sacked, and internal and police investigations are currently taking place into the suspected thefts.
A renowned art historian and numismatist, Jones, 72, led the V&A between 2001 and 2011 and was master of St Cross College, Oxford, from 2011 to 2016.
He previously worked at the British Museum between 1974 and 1992 as assistant keeper then keeper of coins and medals, before becoming the director of the National Museums of Scotland, which he led from 1992 to 2001.
His appointment as interim director has been approved by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.
George Osborne, the chair of the British Museum, said: “I am pleased to confirm that Sir Mark Jones has received the unanimous approval of the board of trustees to become the interim director of the British Museum. Mark is one of the most experienced and respected museum leaders in the world, and he will offer the leadership and grip the museum needs right now.
“We are both clear that his priorities are to accelerate the cataloguing of the collection, improve security, and reinforce pride in the curatorial mission of the museum. This sits alongside the major renovation work we’re undertaking, and the partnerships we’re forging, to ensure that we build a stronger future for the museum we all love and admire.
“I promised we would learn lessons and then lay the foundations for a strong future. Mark’s appointment is a big step in that direction. I look forward to working together.
“I want to thank Lucy Frazer and colleagues in both [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport] and the Treasury for their support in making this appointment.”
Edited to confirm that the appointment has now been approved by the prime minister.