IWM swings the axe


25 July 2022
Imperial War Museums (IWM) announced that Dame Diane Lees will be stepping down as Director-General on 31 March 2023.

Diane Lees joined IWM in 2008 and became the Museums’ first female Director-General since it was founded in 1917. Over the course of her fourteen-year leadership, she has led IWM through one of the most transformative periods in its 105-year history, redeveloping its branches through more than £90 million of fundraising and investment.

With support from IWM’s Board of Trustees, Executive Leadership Team, staff and donors, Diane Lees has driven IWM’s mission through its branches, collection, programming, and partnerships. She placed IWM at the forefront of the nation’s First World War Centenary Commemorations with the opening of IWM London’s groundbreaking First World War Galleries in 2014 and the co-commissioning of Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old. She led the redevelopment of IWM Duxford’s American Air Museum in 2016 and the recent completion of IWM London’s award-winning Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries in 2021.

Throughout her term, Diane Lees has assisted organisations across the world on the subject of war and conflict, including establishing IWM’s First World War Centenary Partnership and The Subject Specialist Network which have brought together thousands of organisations and millions of people globally.

Diane Lees was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in January 2015 and a DBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in January 2022 for services to museums.

Diane Lees, Director-General said, “It has been an honour to serve as Imperial War Museums’ Director-General. Over the past fourteen years I have had the privilege of growing and transforming the organisation, most recently with the opening of the new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries. The Museum, and the sector more generally, have undergone huge change since I began in 2008 and I feel proud to have been at the helm throughout this significant period. I have had the privilege to have worked with so many incredible IWM staff, Trustees, partners, veterans and Holocaust survivors, who have made being Director-General a rewarding and extraordinary experience.”

Matthew Westerman, Chairman of IWM’s Board of Trustees said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, as well as my predecessors as Chair, who have worked so closely with Di over the last fourteen years, I thank Di for her extraordinary service to IWM. She has built on the work of those that preceded her and led the Museum with distinction, working with her leadership teams, staff and volunteers to transform the Museum into the institution that it is today. Her tenure has coincided with good and bad times, most notably the Global Financial Crisis and the Pandemic and throughout, the Museum has stayed true to its mission. Di has led the team from the front in making the Museum such a compelling place to visit both physically and digitally and we are very grateful for the support we continue to receive from our sponsors and donors as well as our excellent relationship with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. We look forward to appointing her successor to build on her achievements and to position the Museum for its next exciting period of development.”

Diane Lees will continue her role as Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University of Lincoln’s Board of Governors as well as several other non-executive positions.

The recruitment of Imperial War Museums’ new Director-General will begin immediately and will be guided by IWM’s Board of Trustees, with the formal appointment made by the Prime Minister.


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