The Director-General of Imperial War Museums (IWM), Dame Diane Lees, is to step down from the role on 31 March 2023.

Lees joined IWM in 2008 and became the Museums’ first female Director-General since its creation in 1917.

Over the course of her fourteen-year leadership, Lees has redeveloped branches of the museum through more than £90 million of fundraising and investment.

With support from IWM’s Board of Trustees, Executive Leadership Team, staff and donors, Lees placed IWM at the forefront of the nation’s First World War Centenary Commemorations with the opening of IWM London’s First World War Galleries in 2014 and the co-commissioning of Peter Jackson’s war documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old.

In her time at IWM, Lees also led the redevelopment of IWM Duxford’s American Air Museum in 2016 and last year the completion of IWM London’s Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries in 2021.

Lees has also assisted organisations internationally on the subject of war and conflict, including establishing IWM’s First World War Centenary Partnership and The Subject Specialist Network.

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.

Lees said her time as Director-General “has been an honour”.

“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 the museum is now set on appointing a successor “to build on [Lees’] achievements and to position the Museum for its next exciting period of development.”

Westerman continued: “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.”

Lees has served as a long time judge on the Museums + Heritage Awards judging panel.

Anna Preedy, Director of Museums + Heritage Awards said of Lees: “It has been, and continues to be, an honour to have Diane as a key member of the Museums + Heritage Awards judging panel. The depth of her knowledge and experience in this sector has been invaluable and we wish her all the best for the future.”

Art Fund – News
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Image: © Ella Pellegrini IWM Dame Diane Lees pictured in front of a display of women’s uniforms from the Second World War. These uniforms are on display at IWM London’s Second World War Galleries, which opened in October 2021