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National Museum Wales chief quits job for New Zealand

12 January 10 17:22 GMT

The director general of National Museum Wales is quitting the post to move to a top museum in New Zealand.

Michael Houlihan who has led the Welsh institution since 2003 will move to become chief executive of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

The president of the National Museum Wales board of trustees paid tribute to a "key visionary".

Paul Loveluck said Mr Houlihan had been instrumental in shaping the museum over the last seven years.

More recently Mr Houlihan been prominent in leading the debate over the positive contribution museums and culture make to the Welsh economy.

He had also laid the foundations for the future development of St Fagans, - the Welsh National Folk Museum - so that the museum tells a more comprehensive history of the people and the nation of Wales.

'Michael Houlihan has led the national museums in Wales through an exciting period of expansion and progress,' said Mr Loveluck.

'There has been significant capital investment in new and improved facilities including the groundbreaking National Waterfront Museum in Swansea in 2005 and an exciting programme of exhibitions including partnership schemes with many local galleries and museums throughout Wales."

Mr Loveluck said the museum's reputation has been enhanced at home and overseas.

Successes included the tour of masterpieces from the Davies sisters collection - Turner to Cézanne - in the USA, which will open in the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC at the end of January.

'His appointment reflects not only his own highly regarded reputation and standing within the museum world, but also Amgueddfa Cymru's, and we are proud of all that he achieved as our director general," said Mr Loveluck.

Innovative approach

Mr Houlihan said the experience had been "a privilege".

"During this time, I have truly come to appreciate how integral culture is to Wales's national psyche and how we should never lose sight of its importance in underpinning Welsh society and shaping the nation's future."

He said he was "excited" about his new challenge in Wellington, which he will take up later this year.

"Museums can't shy away from telling national stories, no matter how intricate or controversial they may be, " said Mr Houlihan.

"Te Papa is world famous for its innovative approach to demonstrating how culture and community memory has moulded the history and identity of New Zealand's communities."

He succeeds as chief executive Dr Seddon Bennington, who died with a friend while walking in snow in a national park last July.

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