New Director of Ashmolean Museum appointed

23 January 2014

The University of Oxford is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Alexander Sturgis as the new Director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. He will take up the appointment on 1 October 2014, succeeding Professor Christopher Brown CBE, who has been the Museum’s Director since 1998.

Dr Sturgis has had a distinguished career as the Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath, since 2005 and previously held various posts over 15 years at the National Gallery, London, including Exhibitions and Programmes Curator from 1999–2005.

Welcoming the appointment of Dr Sturgis, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: ‘We are delighted that Dr Sturgis has agreed to come to Oxford to lead the Ashmolean. The Museum has undergone a substantial transformation in recent years under the outstanding leadership of Christopher Brown. I am fully confident that Dr Sturgis will take forward with equal distinction the next stage of the Ashmolean’s development.’

Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Services and University Collections), said: ‘I am looking forward very much to working with Dr Sturgis as he develops a strategy for the Ashmolean that continues its exceptional trajectory and maximises the contribution of its outstanding collections, both to the teaching and research of the University and to the Museum’s exciting range of activities involving the general public.’

Mr Bernard Taylor, Chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum, said: ‘I am so pleased that Xa Sturgis has decided to come to the Ashmolean. His great success at the Holburne Museum and his previous time at the National Gallery, working closely with Neil McGregor, prepares him well for leadership of this great museum. His past work in the use of collections in education, in arranging successful exhibitions, and in raising visitor numbers six-fold at the Holburne gives him the experience base to build upon the considerable success the Ashmolean has enjoyed in recent times.’

Responding to his appointment, Dr Sturgis said: ‘I am thrilled to be appointed the next Director of the Ashmolean. It is a huge honour to be given the chance to lead one of the country’s great museums, however hard it will be to leave the Holburne after eight exceptionally happy and eventful years. I look forward to working with the Ashmolean team and Oxford University to build on all that has been achieved at the Museum in recent years.’

For further information, contact the University of Oxford News & Information Office on 01865 280528 or at

Notes for Editors:

Dr Alexander Sturgis

Alexander Sturgis read History at the University of Oxford (University College, 1982–1985) before receiving a PhD in Art History from the Courtauld Institute in London in 1990. In 1991 he started what was to be a 15-year spell at the National Gallery in London. There he worked within the Education Department and then, from 1999, as Exhibitions and Programmes Curator and Director’s Curatorial Assistant. The latter role involved working closely with the Director, Neil McGregor, on all aspects of administration within and outside the Museum – for example, helping to set up the Regional Museums Task Force that led to a renaissance in the regions. As Exhibitions and Programmes Curator he curated a number of exhibitions at the Gallery including Telling Time, Bill Viola: The Passions and Rebels and Martyrs: The Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century. He was also responsible for the National Gallery’s touring partnership programme.

In 2005 he was appointed Director of the Holburne Museum in Bath, where he oversaw the Museum’s major development project, which saw the building of Eric Parry’s much-praised extension and the award-winning redisplay and reinterpretation of the collection. Since the Museum reopened in 2011 he has overseen the development of a vibrant and critically  acclaimed exhibition programme and seen visitor numbers increase by 500% while placing the Museum (which receives no government or council funding) on a secure financial footing through building commercial and fundraising revenue while substantially increasing the Museum’s endowment. He developed a Higher Education Strategy for the Museum and has extended the use of its collection as a resource for the Universities of Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol and West of England.

The Ashmolean Museum

Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum is the most significant museum of art and archaeology in the heart of Britain, and the finest university museum in the world. Its collections are large, rich and unusually diverse, ranging from archaeology to fine and decorative arts, and from numismatics to casts of classical sculpture from the great museums of Europe. The Ashmolean is home to the best collection of Predynastic Egyptian material in Europe; the only great collection of Minoan antiquities outside Greece; the largest and most important group of Raphael drawings in the world; the greatest Anglo-Saxon collections outside the British Museum; a world-renowned collection of coins and medals; and outstanding holdings of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Islamic art. The works and objects in these remarkable collections tell the story of civilisation and the aspirations of mankind from Nineveh and ancient Egypt to the Renaissance, right up to the triumphs of 20th-century Europe. Admission to the Museum is free.