Caro Howell appointed director-general of Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums (IWM) has announced Caro Howell as its new director-general. Howell will take up her role on 1 May 2023, with the institution’s outgoing head Diane Lees remaining in post until 1 March 2023.

Howell has been the director of London’s Foundling Museum since 2011, where she has helped the museum, which is dedicated to the lives of orphans and their legacies, build audiences and establish new relationships with care-experienced young people.

From 2005, Howell was the head of education and public events at the Whitechapel Gallery, where she oversaw the development of major new education spaces and project galleries.

Prior to that, she was part of the set-up team for Tate Modern and formulated its audience development strategy and developed London’s first peer-led museum programmed for 15-23-year olds.

Howell was awarded an MBE in June of this year for her services to museums.

The recruitment of IWM’s director-general was guided by its board of trustees, with the formal appointment made by prime minister Rishi Sunak. The interview panel consisted of trustees and external representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the museum and heritage sector.

Howell said: “I feel very honoured to be asked by the trustees of IWM to become the new director-general. Under Dame Diane Lees’ leadership, IWM has transformed the ways in which conflict and its impact are explored. IWM is unparalleled in its ability to trace complex ideas across centuries and continents, held in stories, objects and emotions that speak to us all.

“Like the Foundling Museum, stories are at IWM’s heart. At a time when the war in Ukraine is impacting the lives of millions around the world, IWM’s mission could not be more vital. I look forward to developing its reputation for reaching new audiences across all its sites, through bold, inclusive and global storytelling.”

Michelle Donelan, culture secretary, said: “I congratulate Caro Howell on her appointment. She brings a wealth of experience to the role and is well placed to continue Diane Lees’ excellent legacy. We look forward to working with her and supporting the important work of this public institution.”