Douglas Gurr appointed director of Natural History Museum

Rebecca Atkinson, 18.06.2020

Former Amazon boss to take over from Michael Dixon later this year

London's Natural History Museum has appointed Amazon UK boss Douglas Gurr as director.

He will take over from Michael Dixon, who announced his intention to step down in 2019, later this year.

Gurr is the head of Amazon UK and was the president of Amazon China from 2014 to 2016. The British businessman has also worked for management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co and supermarket chain Asda. He started his career teaching mathematics and computing at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and has held senior roles in the civil service.

“The Natural History Museum’s vision of a future where people and planet thrive has never been more relevant and it is a privilege to be invited to lead this globally important cultural and scientific institution,” Gurr said. “I am passionate about the work the museum is doing to tackle the planetary emergency by using its unrivalled collection and leading scientific research to connect millions of people a year with nature. I can’t wait to join the team.”

Although he has never worked in a museum, Gurr was chair of the board of the Science Museum from 2010 to 2014 and is a trustee of the National Gallery and the Landmark Trust.

“Doug’s academic background, considerable experience in working with public service organisations and digital understanding make him ideal to lead our treasured museum in our mission to create advocates for the planet,” says Stephen Green, chair of the Natural History Museum.


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23.06.2020, 12:05
I don't see from a job description point of view why Gurr should take this job, it seems a really strange appointment. At least Tristram Hunt was a politician and an academic and Paddy Rogers worked in Shipping. I'd say they are more suited to the roles.

However, I can help but feel a sense of irony here. When it comes to Traineeships, Museum managers are so keen on the idea to open competition not just for people who have been trying hard to get an entry level job in the sector for ages, but those 'who never considered working in a museum before' trying to 'open up the sector to a range of proffesionals.' however, as soon as its one of the top museum jobs in the country aka, jobs they may want. There is an outrage.

If People from outside the sector can compete with Trainees, then why is it such a problem for them to compete with top jobs too?
22.06.2020, 14:24
I hope he has as much "passion' for "tackling" diversity, inclusion and colonial inheritance as the "planetary emergency" not to mention as part of it.
21.06.2020, 18:26
So, just a part-time job then? Not to mention how the appointment was overseen.

20.06.2020, 18:18
So he is a white, Oxbridge educated, able bodied man who is not qualified and has no experience in the industry. Are you sure we don't have reason to be critical of this appointment!
If having relevant qualifications and experience does not count one bit, lets close all the universities and rip up our qualifications!
Actually, there may be something to this. I quite fancy running National Rail services. I can drive a car, and I guess that is similar. Or maybe I could set up as a dentist, after all I brush my teeth. Or better yet, I could be Prime Minister, as I have no experience of running a country, and no relevant qualifications. Oh, hang on, that is how that works!
19.06.2020, 20:09
And I’ve just seen he went to Oxbridge ffs. So of all the things to criticise, his absence of a long museum career hardly seems the most important
19.06.2020, 19:59
I never shop at Amazon because they are evil tax dodging staff exploiters and the convenience they offer can’t justify that in my eyes. And I obviously think ill of Douglas Gurr because he held a senior position there. But... the comments here saying that outsiders shouldn’t run museums is isolationist nonsense. Some of the best museum directors have come from outside the sector. I think we can assume the NHM went through a thorough process and responsibly selected who they judge the best person for the role. Rather than criticising the appointment because he’s an outsider it might be more pertinent to regret he’s another able-bodied white man
01.07.2020, 15:19
Coz this: Gurr was named as the new director of the Natural History Museum earlier this week, in a move overseen by Prime Minister Boris Johnson
19.06.2020, 14:44
With all caveats aside about 'give him a chance' I think this marks the gaping chasm between values-based practice and decision-making in museums. I am a Fellow of the MA, slogged through my degrees and have enjoyed what was once describe to me as a 'portfolio career' (definitions of success and all that). I now mentor, teach and train colleagues who want to be good curators in museums and elsewhere. This appointment sends out the strongest signal possible that all of that effort, all of that dedication to self-learning as well as supporting the learning and enjoyment of others is pointless as you will never be seen as a good or capable decision-maker. Just like our sector has itself been responsible for 'curator-bashing' our sector from within doesn't trust itself to run itself. Given national museums are the most public of insitutiitions it has always bothered me why new directors are not elected democratically, and have to stand and provide a manifesto to their public that they serve. To all you budding curators and museum people out there, try not to lose heart, but perhaps think about how you can apply your museum skills in places that will truly treasure them (they are out there but they are not at (m)any of our national museums).
19.06.2020, 14:41

meets the museum sector. The results could be interesting...
19.06.2020, 13:56
Having worked for the Natural History Museum, I am outraged at this appointment. Commercialism has obviously trumped museum integrity and ethics. Doug may have sat on the Board of the Science Museum for 4 years, but that does not qualify him in any respect for this position. One could argue that if that qualifies him as a museum professional, does it also qualify him as a scientist! This appointment is an insult to all of the museum professionals that dedicate their careers to educating and inspiring the public, and is sending a very clear message to all employees to give up any notion of fair and legitimate career progression. Furious, and extremely disappointed at all those on the panel who decided on this appointment. The stench of a corporate sell-out is nauseating.
19.06.2020, 13:32
So glad I studied hard for my post graduate diploma in museum studies and AMA.........
19.06.2020, 13:18
so, good experience with minimum wage warehouse operations and corporate consulting.

great fit for informal learning and research. right.