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Wellcome Trust charity that closed 'racist, sexist and ableist' gallery hiring diversity director on £211,000 salary

14 February 2023, 12:21 | Updated: 14 February 2023, 12:39

The Wellcome Trust, whose museum controversially closed its Medicine Man gallery is hiring for a diversity role
The Wellcome Trust, whose museum controversially closed its Medicine Man gallery is hiring for a diversity role. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A British charity whose museum closed part of its "racist" collection is looking for a diversity, equity and inclusion director who will earn £211,000 per year.

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Medical research charity Wellcome Trust, on Euston Road in central London, says it wants a "thoughtful, collaborative, and agile individual" to "set, evolve and implement an ambitious, multi-faceted Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy".

Despite the £211,500-per-year salary, the successful candidate will only need to work two days a week in the office, with staff working remotely on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

At the same time the trust is also looking for a chief strategy officer, who will earn considerably less, on £177,830 per annum.

The move comes after the museum run by the trust, one of the wealthiest charities in the world, closed part of its collection because of fears of racism, sexism and ableism.

A staff member looking at a 19th century watercolour of a pair of wrestlers
A staff member looking at a 19th century watercolour of a pair of wrestlers. Picture: Alamy

The Wellcome Collection, which that houses the collection of Henry Wellcome, the pharmaceutical magnate whose legacy funds the charity, closed Medicine Man, one of its galleries, in November last year because bosses felt the collection it housed contained "racist, sexist and ableist theories and language."

Controversial artefacts included a painting called "A Medical Missionary Attending to a Sick African", which portrayed a black man kneeling in front of a white missionary.

A museum statement posted on Twitter read: "We can't change our past. But we can work towards a future where we give voice to the narratives and lived experiences of those who have been silenced, erased and ignored.

"We tried to do this with some of the pieces in Medicine Man using artist interventions. But the display still perpetuates a version of medical history that is based on racist, sexist and ableist theories and language."

Museum bosses added: "Medicine Man is 15 years old, and the world is very different now to when it opened. If we were curating the space for the first time today, we would not choose to display these items through the lens of a single person, Henry Wellcome."

The museum also said it was "taking some time to consider" how it would use this space in future, adding that the gallery was only one part of its large collection.

The Wellcome Trust said in the job advert for the diversity director role: "While the role is a new one for the Executive Leadership Team, the organisation has been on an EDI Journey for several years. 

"The incoming Chief EDI Officer will partner directly with Wellcome’s CEO, ELT and global Board to foster an inclusive and equitable culture at senior leadership levels.

A mummified man from Peru, who lived in the Middle Ages, in the Wellcome Collection
A mummified man from Peru, who lived in the Middle Ages, in the Wellcome Collection. Picture: Alamy

"The successful candidate will partner across Wellcome Trust and beyond to set, evolve and implement an ambitious, multi-faceted Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy for the staff and the organisation as a whole. 

"They will be responsible for partnering with a wide variety of stakeholders across one Wellcome organisation (including with the Wellcome Collection, and Wellcome’s Berlin office) to strengthen the shared vision, mission and strategy for systemic and lasting change internally, as well as in the broader research community through Wellcome’s funding activities. 

Read more: Museum advertise for £35k-a-year 'social justice champion' to 'decolonise artefacts'

Read more: The term mummy is 'dehumanising' and should no longer be used, museum says in bid to protect ancient Egyptians

"This is a highly collaborative position that requires a leader who will invest in and engage partners to evolve and deliver the long-term EDI vision, commitment and roadmap that is steadfast in its principles yet flexible enough for each team to implement authentically and sustainably.

"Wellcome has ambitious goals to improve equity, diversity, anti-racism and inclusion which it is determined to embed across its workforce, and in the delivery of its strategy. As such, applications are actively sought from the broadest range of society, including all under-represented groups."

Candidates have until March 5 to apply.

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