The Prime Minister wishes to appoint three new Trustees to the board of the Natural History Museum. These Trustees will either bring senior public engagement, legal or digital expertise to the board. Applications are encouraged from all sections of the community to help ensure that the Museum’s board is representative of the diverse society it serves.
There are four regular Board meetings per year and one strategy day. Occasionally extraordinary meetings are convened to consider urgent issues or decisions. In addition, Trustees will sit on other committees as necessary as well as attend events at the Museum, other representational engagements, and, where possible or desirable, take part in recruitment for senior management positions. Trustees will need to allocate additional time to study papers. The total time varies, but, on average, it will be one day per month. Board meeting dates for 2023 are as follows:
- 21 February
- 16 May
- 4 July
- 12 September (Annual Trustees’ Strategy Day)
- 14 November
Location of Meetings
We have recently returned to a pattern where Board meetings normally take place at the main site in South Kensington, London and typically include a “behind the scenes” tour to aid Trustee understanding and engagement, although some meetings may remain virtual. In recent years the May Board meeting has been held at another UK location and the Annual Trustees’ Strategy Day is usually held in London but remote from the Museum.
History of the Museum
Originally part of the British Museum, the natural history collections (founded on those generated by Sir Hans Sloane) were moved to South Kensington when the now Grade 1 listed Waterhouse building was opened in 1881. The Museum became a separate legal entity with its own Board of Trustees on enactment of the British Museum Act, 1963, but was known after that time as the British Museum (Natural History), until the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 when it was officially retitled the Natural History Museum. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring (now known as the Natural History Museum at Tring) was added in 1937 when it was given to the nation by the second Baron Rothschild. Responsibility was assumed for the Geological Museum (now the Earth Galleries) from the Natural Environment Research Council when the latter's British Geological Survey moved to Keyworth in 1985. The Natural History Museum is both a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), funded in part by Grant-in-Aid from the British Government provided through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and an exempt charity. Approximately half of its expenditure is derived from sources of self-generated income, including bodies awarding grants for scientific research.
The Museum Today
The Natural History Museum’s mission is to create advocates for the planet – inspiring millions of people to care about the natural world and make the positive changes in their daily lives that will create a world in which both people and planet can thrive.
The NHM is the guardian of one of the world’s most important natural history collections. Through our own unrivalled expertise and by opening up access and participation for all, we are unlocking answers to the big issues facing humanity and the planet:
- The origins of our planet and life on it, and the impact of change;
- The diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems that ensure the survival of our planet;
- Sustainable futures, for example the security of our food supply, the eradication of disease and the management of mineral and ore scarcity.
The Natural History Museum is internationally recognised for its dual role as a centre of scientific excellence and as a leading visitor attraction, presenting natural history to the general public through exhibitions, a programme of public events and a presence online and on social media. Its principal purposes are to discover and make available to the scientific community the information contained within its collections of natural history specimens and to entertain, interest and educate people of all ages in natural history.
The Museum is entering an exciting new phase in its development. There is an imperative to improve the conditions for storage of collections and plans to realise this by moving some collections to Thames Valley Science Park, in collaboration with the University of Reading. New digital, analytical and genomic technologies are emerging which both increase the potential user base of the collections and enable greater information to be derived from even the oldest specimens. These changes are facilitating exciting new research opportunities. Finally, a vibrant programme of temporary exhibitions will complement a planned refit of major galleries, and plans are in place to redevelop the Museum’s gardens, creating outdoor galleries and new outdoor learning activities for young people.
These plans need to be resourced. The Natural History Museum is an Arm’s Length Body with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is its sponsoring government department. NHM receives Grant in Aid funding to support a proportion of its cost-base, but much of the Museum’s income is generated from external commercial and fundraising sources. The ambitious Vision and Strategy to 2031 will make growing and diversifying this self-generated income even more important to success.
The Trustees of the Museum have statutory duties under the British Museum Act 1963 and the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 for the general management and control of the Museum and for the appointment of the Director. Within the framework of these statutory duties, the role of the Trustees is primarily to establish Museum policy, review performance, support the generation of income and endorse appointments to key management positions.
Trustees participate in the Board’s decision making processes including preparation for and attendance at all meetings of the Board and of any Board committees or other Museum structures to which they are appointed.
Trustees should have a commitment to the objectives of the Museum, uphold Museum policies and act as advocates for the Museum, including assistance with activities to generate funding from the corporate sector, trusts and foundations and other philanthropists.
Trustees are expected to understand and uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life as defined by the Nolan Committee. Those principles are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. In accordance with this commitment, Trustees must declare any pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests upon appointment and whenever a matter or decision arises in which the Trustee has an interest which might be perceived to prejudice their views or comments or to be in conflict with the interests of the Museum.
Regulation of appointment
This post is regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. For more information, please refer to the Commissioner’s website
Significant senior legal expertise and sophisticated understanding (most likely gained at either a major law firm or as an in-house counsel in a leading commercial, Government or non-profit organisation) in one or more of the following practice areas:
- legalities, governance and risk for global institutions
- intellectual property, commercial exploitation and new ventures
- major project, property, planning and construction law.
Significant expertise in digital technology (most likely gained through experience at a major technology company, in the technology investment sector or in the scientific technology arena) in one or more of the following areas:
- Large-scale consumer-facing organisations with innovative digital strategies;
- Big data science sets, artificial intelligence and machine learning;
- Consumer content management expertise;
- Digital Infrastructure expertise (including large scale technology projects and key areas of risk, like cyber-security)
Senior Public Engagement Trustee
Significant public engagement expertise (most likely gained at major organisations with a public facing, cultural, educational, charitable or entertainment focus, and a large/complex set of audiences) in one or more of the following areas:
- A commitment to preserving cultural heritage, and improving education and understanding of British and World history
- Building audiences at local, national and global levels in terms of reach, diversity and impact.
- Bringing expertise across both physical and digital engagement channels.
- Engaging a diverse range of audiences with challenging content such as contemporary science, and issues of social relevance with regards to collections.
- Inspiring behaviour change, action, participation and advocacy through public engagement.
- Experience of major public space transformations including the development of new galleries and public facilities.
- Influencing stakeholders to support public engagement in a variety of ways (for example, at policy level, philanthropically, champion support)
- Expertise in the latest audience engagement theories, research and insights.
Applicants to the roles will also need to demonstrate in their application:
- A love of natural history and a commitment to the Museum’s strategic plan;
- An understanding of the importance to the Museum of fundraising and a commitment to support such activity;
- Excellent judgement and the ability to contribute to Board discussion on strategy, governance and policy development;
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to represent and advocate for the Museum;
- The ability to work collaboratively with other Trustees and the senior management of the Museum;
- A strong commitment to engaging communities outside London, and factoring UK-wide perspectives into all decision making.