Sir Mark Jones announced as interim director of British Museum after Hartwig Fischer's resignation

Sir Mark Jones has been announced as the interim director of the British Museum by the board of trustees, the institution's chair George Osborne has said.

Director Hartwig Fischer stepped down after over 2,000 artefacts were stolen from the London museum.

He said the situation was "of the utmost seriousness" and he has "sadly come to the conclusion" that his presence was "proving a distraction".

On Saturday, former chancellor Mr Osborne confirmed Sir Mark as the new interim director.

In a statement, he said: "Mark is one of the most experienced and respected museum leaders in the world, and he will offer the leadership and grip the museum needs right now.

"We are both clear that his priorities are to accelerate the cataloguing of the collection, improve security, and reinforce pride in the curatorial mission of the museum.

"This sits alongside the major renovation work we're undertaking, and the partnerships we're forging, to ensure that we build a stronger future for the museum we all love and admire.

"I promised we would learn lessons and then lay the foundations for a strong future. Mark's appointment is a big step in that direction. I look forward to working together."

He added that Sir Mark's appointment is subject to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's approval.

The museum earlier sacked a senior curator after close to 2,000 artefacts, worth millions of pounds, were believed to have been stolen.

Mr Fischer, a German art historian, said it was "evident that the British Museum did not respond as comprehensively as it should have" in response to "warnings in 2021" about a problem that has now "fully emerged".

"The responsibility for that failure must ultimately rest with the director," he said.

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It was announced later that the museum's deputy director, Jonathan Williams, had "agreed to voluntarily step back from his normal duties".

That will be the case "until the independent review into the thefts at the museum has concluded", the museum said.

Who is Sir Mark Jones?

Sir Mark Jones FRSE served as Assistant Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum from 1974 to 1990, later becoming Keeper of Coins and Medals until 1992.

He subsequently directed the National Museums of Scotland (1992-2001), overseeing the opening of the Museum of Scotland, the creation of the National War Museum of Scotland, and the Museum of Scottish Country Life.

During his tenure as director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (2001-2011), he led a £120, renewal programme, transforming a significant portion of the museum's extensive facilities. From 2011 to 2016, he served as Master of St Cross College, Oxford, overseeing student growth and the construction of a new building with enhanced amenities.

In 2012, Sir Mark founded the acclaimed independent bookshop, the Golden Hare, in Edinburgh, which later earned recognition as the Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2019. Currently, he holds the position of chair for the Pilgrim Trust, the National Trust for Scotland, and Hospitalfield.