The Victoria & Albert museum in London announced today that the Labour MP Tristram Hunt will become its new director. The appointment has already been approved by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport.
Hunt will take up the position in the coming months, after resigning from him current post as MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central in Staffordshire, which he has held since the 2010 general election.
Besides his political career, Hunt is a historian—an expert on the 18th and 19th centuries, with a focus on Victorian urban history—a writer, and a broadcaster. He’s authored books including The English Civil War: At First Hand, and most recently Ten Cities That Made An Empire.
In a statement released by the V&A, Hunt said:
I am delighted and honored to have been appointed Director of the V&A. I have loved the V&A since I was a boy, and today it is a global leader in its unrivalled collections, special exhibitions, academic research and visitor experience.
It is a moment of transformation and renewal for the V&A, with the upcoming opening of the new Exhibition Road entrance, and new sites and galleries in Dundee, China, and Stratford. I am particularly pleased that, through the V&A ownership of the Wedgwood Collection, my passion for education in Stoke-on-Trent can continue.
The combination of the power of the collections and expertise of an inspirational team is what makes the V&A the world’s greatest Museum of art, design and performance.
Hunt is succeeding German-born Martin Roth, who announced in September 2016 that he’d be stepping down after a successful five-year tenure, with the Brexit vote playing a major role in his decision. Under Roth’s leadership, the museum staged the landmark blockbuster exhibitions “David Bowie Is” and “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.”
But money is certainly not the only motivation for Hunt, who has been reportedly unhappy at the Labour Party for some time and has been a fierce critic of the party’s current leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, in a curious case of professional musical chairs, Roth announced last September that he would like to go into politics in his native Germany. “The theme of an open society has preoccupied me, also and especially in Germany,” adding that he’d like to become “more political than is possible in my current occupation.”
According to the BBC, in a letter sent to local party members, Hunt said he didn’t want to “rock the boat” with his move, but that he couldn’t say no to the chance “to have one of the greatest museum jobs in the world.”
He also apologized to party members and the people of Stoke-on-Trent for having to put them through a by-election.
“[Hunt] has a highly compelling mixture of experience across public life, the arts, history, education and academia, and knows our collections well from his writing and broadcasting,” the museum’s chairman Nicholas Coleridge said in a statement.
“In addition, he is an informed and articulate leader and communicator on numerous facets of culture, both historic and contemporary, and I greatly look forward to working with him at the V&A.”
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