BM appoints Beard despite No 10 rejection

The British Museum has appointed the classics scholar Professor Mary Beard a trustee, despite No 10 Downing Street having rejected her candidature.

A familiar television face, Prof Beard had been turned down apparently because of her support for the UK remaining within the EEC.

Appointments to the boards of nationally funded cultural institutions is normally approved by the government, but following No 10's rejection of Beard's candidature at end of Theresa May's government last year,  the museum’s board has now decided to defy the government and appoint her directly. “Mary brings scholarship, energy and a remarkable public profile to the British Museum” said its chair, Sir Richard Lambert. “We are very happy to have her on board.”

The rejection of the popular historian and broadcaster was controversial, with Sir John Tusa, the former managing director of the Barbican Centre, telling The Observer: “This is an absolute scandal. The trustees of the British Museum exist to protect its intellectual, academic and political independence. Will any remainer now expect to be punished by the government?”

But the new administration appears to have had a change of heart in the face of the museum’s decision. “The current administration is delighted to see Mary Beard appointed and has no reservations over her appointment, which should have happened sooner” No 10 has now told the Press Association.

Beard can take up her unpaid trusteeship immediately. “I am honoured to be able to serve the British Museum in this way” she said. “It was a visit to the British Museum that first inspired me to work on the ancient world.

“I have been a huge beneficiary of this and other museums in the country over the last 60 years, and I am delighted to be able to give something back. There are many ways in which these are challenging times for all museums, and I look forward to bringing my pennyworth to the table in facing those challenges.”


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