Matthew Tanner to leave SS Great Britain after more than two decades at the helm - Museums Association

Matthew Tanner to leave SS Great Britain after more than two decades at the helm

Chief executive has steered maritime museum through significant transformation
Leadership maritime
Matthew Tanner standing in front of the SS Great Britain historic ship. He wears glasses and a pink shirt
Matthew Tanner has been at the SS Great Britain Trust since 1997

Longstanding chief executive Matthew Tanner is to step down from the SS Great Britain Trust on 30 September after 26 years.

Tanner first joined the trust as a curator in 1997 and became director in 2000.

During his time at the Bristol charity, which runs Brunel’s SS Great Britain museum ship and the Brunel Institute learning and archive centre, Tanner has overseen a significant transformation of the historic maritime site.

He led on the 2005 redevelopment of the museum, which saw an innovative mirror glass sea installed around the ship to ensure visitors could view it from above and below the water line.

Tanner has steered the long-term preservation strategy for the ship, as well as the launch of the Future Brunels Stem learning programme and the opening of the Being Brunel Museum in 2018.


The SS Great Britain was named Museum of the Year in 2006 and won the European Most Welcoming Museum Portimao Prize in 2019.

Tanner’s departure comes as the trust gears up for an ambitious new project to expand the site significantly. The plans will see the adjacent Albion Dockyard transformed into a maritime visitor attraction set within a working shipyard, with its centrepiece being the recreation of a full-size version of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first ship, the paddle steamer Great Western.

In a statement, the trust thanked Tanner for his contribution and wished him success for the future.

Tanner said: “It has been my great privilege to work for the SS Great Britain Trust and with outstanding staff and volunteer teams to achieve such extraordinary things together, inspiring and changing the lives of young people and preserving Brunel’s masterpiece – the magnificent SS Great Britain.

“In my time the trust has grown through many significant transformations and together we have won many national and international prizes. I am proud to have played a part in the ship’s history. The time has now come for me to leave the Great Western Dockyard and to take on some new challenges.

“I know the great ship and the two historic dockyards are in the good care of the trustees and a first-rate staff group, embraced and treasured by the people of Bristol, and many more people can and will be inspired by her and all that the Trust does in the future.

“I’ve always believed that we can all make a difference, and change the world a little bit at a time. So we have.”

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