Vanda Vitali

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Vanda Vitali
Education University of Toronto
Occupation Museum executive

Vanda Vitali is an international museum executive. She was director and chief executive at the Auckland Museum in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2007 through 2010, the first woman ever appointed to that role.[1] She had been vice president, public programs and director, content development at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, in Los Angeles, California, from 2002 to 2007.


Vitali studied both fine arts and physical chemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, before pursuing and receiving her Ph.D. in materials science at that university in 1985. Her research involved the application of physics to archaeological objects and works of art. This was followed by postdoctoral studies in epistemology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France.

Significant positions during the 1980s and 1990s include policy adviser to the president on heritage preservation and presentation, Arab World Institute, Paris, France; and field director, Transfer of Conservation Technologies and Gallery Development, Museum of Carthage, Carthage, Tunisia and University of Toronto, Canada. Vitali was appointed advisor to the president of the Royal Ontario Museum in 1999 and held that post until her departure in 2002. She also simultaneously served as head of the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. She left Canada in 2002 to become vice president of public programs and director of content development at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. She also held the position of executive producer of special exhibitions, programs and publications.[2]

Auckland Museum[edit]

In 2007 Vitali was appointed director and chief executive officer of Auckland Museum, a major institution featuring a renowned collection of Maori and Pacific objects. She began work at the Museum in late 2007[1] Under her leadership since 2007, the museum has sought to expand the role of the museum, which had been "an institution cherished by Aucklanders but taken for granted, one perennially challenged by limited funding and changing audience expectations."[3] Soon after her hire, Vitali began an organisational restructuring of the museum, making many managers reapply for their jobs. The proposal was leaked to The New Zealand Herald, whose online comparisons of the Auckland museum to Te Papa drew numerous comments from online readers.[4] The museum made 22 of some 200 positions redundant, a move criticised by the Public Service Association, a union representing some museum employees.[5]

The first special exhibition was entitled "Secrets Revealed", and opened in 2008.[3] Vitali has also introduced the monthly program, “LATE at the Museum. Smart Talk. Great Music”, the first such museum LATE format to come to New Zealand. These evenings bring together experts from relevant fields to discuss topics such as migration, innovation and identity. These events have received wide exposure in the New Zealand media.[6]

In May 2009 during Vitali's tenure at Auckland Museum, the children of the late Sir Edmund Hillary took legal action against the museum after a reported relationship breakdown with Vitali and discovering the museum intended to claim intellectual property rights to their father's diaries, writings and family photographs which had been bequeathed to the museum.[7]

In late 2009 the Auckland Museum Trust board initiated a review of Vanda Vitali's performance.[8]. The museum began a public relations campaign to repair Vitali's image which backfired when the New Zealand Herald reported on its breach of Wikipedia guidelines.[9]

In March 2010 the board accepted Vitali's resignation.


  • World Academy for the Future of Women and Sias International University - Sias Women's Leadership Award (2013)
  • Chevalier Dans L'Ordre Des Arts et Lettres, France
  • Commander of the Order of Merit for Culture, Tunisia
  • AAM Muse 2007 Jim Blackaby Ingenuity Award, U.S.A.
  • Bausch and Lomb Merit Award for Physics, U.S.A.

Partial List of Publications[edit]

Water: East, West - Then Now, Proceedings of the International Water Conference, Sedona Edge Forum, Sias International University, Zhengzhou, People's Republic of China, May 2013

Grappling with Limits: Museums and Social InclusionIn Beyond the Turnstile: Making the Case for Museum and Sustainable Values, AltaMira Press, New York, USA, 2009

Mastering a Museum Plan: Strategies for Exhibit Development, D. Houtgraaf, V. Vitali and P. Gale, Naturalis, The National Museum of Natural History, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2008 Amazon link

See|Hear : Museums and Imagination, Los Angeles, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 2006.

On Being a University Museum: Experimentation, Imagination, Interpretation. Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium of University Museums – UMAC/ICOM. Mexico City, September 25 -October 2, 2006.

Conversations Los Angeles Leiden: Museums and Interpretation, Exhibition Catalogue, Leiden, The Netherlands, April 2006 – January 2007, Los Angeles, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 2006.

Of Bait and Fishes: Museums and Cultures In Cultures of Economy – Economy of Cultures. Proceedings of the Symposium, Bayerische Amerika Akademie Munich, Germany, 2002

From Museums to Menus (and Back?): Museology and the Processes of Social and Economic Change, In Museology, Social and Economic Development. Proceedings of the Symposium, ICOM 20th General Assembly, Barcelona, Spain, 2001

Conservation of the Punic Collection at the Museum of Carthage. Part III – Transfer of Museological Technologies: Establishment of a Conservation-centred Didactic Gallery, V. Vitali, Peter Gale and Ursula M. Franklin, Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation, 2001

Innovation Despite Constraints: Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum, V. Vitali and E. Secord, Muse v.19, #1, 2001

Conservation of the Punic Collection at the Museum of Carthage. Part II – Transfer of Conservation Technology: Establishment of a Salvage Conservation Laboratory, V. Vitali and U.M. Franklin, Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation, 2000

Data Analysis of Trace-Element Patterns of North American Native Copper Sources, G. Rapp Jr., J.D. Allert, V. Vitali and Z. Jing, In Determining Geological Sources of Artifact Copper: Source Characterization Using Trace Element Patterns, University Press of America, 2000

Culture Then, Culture Now: The real business of managing heritage, In Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium of World Heritage Cities. Santiago de Compostela, 1999.

Conservation of the Punic Collection at the Museum of Carthage. Part I – Mapping the Collection: Methodology, Classification and Assessment, V. Vitali and U.M. Franklin, Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation, 1999

A post scriptum: Museology and Globalization What is it? Peut-on conclure? In Museology and Globalization, Proceedings of the Symposium, ICOM 19th General Assembly, Melbourne, Australia, 1998

Conservation of Cultural Heritage: An Approach to Sustainable International Development In La Conservación como factor de desarrollo en el siglo XXI, Valladolid: Fondatión del partimonio historico de Castilla y Leon, 1998

Remembering the People: Unity and Diversity within the Global Community, V. Vitali and P. A. Gale, In Museology and Globalization, ICOFOM Study Series ISS 29, 1998


  1. ^ a b Hill, David (2007-06-11). "Auckland Museum appoints first woman director". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  2. ^ "Vanda Vitali". 
  3. ^ a b Cumming, Geoff (2008-06-28). "Displaying a Hunger for Change". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  4. ^ Cumming, Geoff (16 February 2008). "Rattling bones at the museum". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Gregory, Angela (10 July 2008). "Union queries museum job losses". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Orsman, Bernard (2009-01-19). "Revamped Museum Draws Thousands". The New Zealand Herald. 
  7. ^ Smith, Jacqueline. "Hillary dispute: Museum slams 'screaming' public". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Orsman, Bernard (9 December 2009). "Showdown at city's museum". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Barratt, Joseph (21 February 2010). "Bad PR move for museum". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 

External links[edit]