List of trustees of the British Museum

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The Board of Trustees of the British Museum comprises up to 25 members. One Trustee is appointed by The Crown, 15 are appointed by the Prime Minister and five appointed by the Trustees. Four Trustees are appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the nominations of the Presidents of: the Royal Academy, the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Royal Society.[1] Its current head is Richard Lambert. The position of the British Museum is that its collections, including those such as the Parthenon Marbles widely viewed to have been obtained illegally, are "owned" by the trustees.[2] Thus, the trustees have often been embroiled in art looting controversies.

Current trustees[edit]

The following is a list of current trustees, as of March 2014.[1] Trustees are usually appointed for an initial term of four years. Appointments can be renewed with the Prime Minister’s approval, but trustees can only serve for a maximum of 10 years.[3]

Art looting controversy and resignation from the Board[edit]

Novelist Ahdaf Soueif resigned from the board in 2019, citing issues with corporate sponsorship as well as the Museum's failure to return looted art work, such as the Parthenon Marbles.[20] The resignation was supported by staff at the British Museum, who are uncomfortable with the Museum displaying looted art work.[22] Board director Lambert continues to assert the trustee's ownership of all collections currently displayed in the British Museum, including the Parthenon Marbles.[23] The penalties in Greece for art theft, for which there is no statute of limitations, include up to 20 years imprisonment.[24]

Former trustees[edit]

The British Museum Act 1753 established a 42 strong Board of Trustees, which included two representatives each of the Sloane, Cotton, and Harley families, elected representatives and the following ex-officio: Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Chancellor, Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council, First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Privy Seal, Lord High Admiral, Lord Steward, Lord Chamberlain, the three Principal Secretaries of State, Bishop of London, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Chief Justice King's Bench, Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice Common Pleas, Attorney General, and Solicitor General.[25]

This rose to 50 by the mid-1800s, including the addition of a trustee appointed by the Crown (British Museum Act 1832) and one representative each from the Towneley, Elgin, and Knight families.[26]

The British Museum Act 1963 reduced the number of trustees to the current 25 and set the time-limit on appointments.

Former trustees from 1963 onwards[edit]

Notable former trustees 1753-1963[edit]

Given the large number of ex-officio and family representatives, this list will only include those trustees who are notable for their work with regard to the British Museum.

  • Joseph Banks(1788-1820) ex-officio as President of the Royal Society[29]
  • Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode (1730–1799), trustee 1784-99, a major collector of prints and books, who left his important collections to the museum.


  1. ^ a b c "Trustees". British Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  2. ^ "The Parthenon Sculptures: The position of the Trustees of the British Museum". British Museum.
  3. ^ "Appointments". British Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Trustee K Armstrong". British Museum. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Trustee C Bayly". British Museum. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Boardman appointment" (PDF). Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d "Government appointments 2013". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Trustee N Fitzgerald". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Trustee - L Forgan". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Trustee C Gamble". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Trustee A Gormley". British Museum. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Trustee - P Hughes". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Trustee - G Iacobescu". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Trustee R Lambert". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "Government appointments 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  16. ^ "Mickelthwait appointment". Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Trustee - P Nurse". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Trustee - A Sen". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  19. ^ a b "Trustee - M Sorrell". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  20. ^ a b "In damning online critique of British Museum's ethics, trustee Ahdaf Soueif announces resignation". The Art Newspaper. 16 July 2019.
  21. ^ "Wheatcroft appointment". Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  22. ^ "British Museum staff express support for trustee who resigned". The Guardian. 23 July 2019.
  23. ^ "Trust us to look after the Parthenon Marbles". The Guardian. 26 September 2019.
  24. ^ Steven A. Bibas. "The Case against Statutes of Limitations for Stolen Art". Yale Law Journal.
  25. ^ The British Museum chapter 2
  26. ^ Walford, E 1878 Old and New London vol.4 chapter 38
  27. ^ "UK Government; Professor Barry Cunliffe appointed Trustee of the British Museum". Presswire. 30 November 2000. Professor Barry Cunliffe has been appointed Trustee of the British Museum. His appointment took effect from 4 October 2000 and runs for a period of five years, Culture Secretary Chris Smith announced.
  28. ^ A founder of Hellenic Centre in London, wife of Constantine Leventis, Ambassador of Cyprus to Unesco and chairman of the A.G. Leventis foundation which funded the A.G. Leventis Gallery. See "Constantine Leventis". The Independent. 19 August 2002.
  29. ^ Chambers, N. 2007 Joseph Banks and the British Museum